The aim of our study was to quantify the structural integrity of the long association fibre tracts in early Alzheimer's disease (AD) and to correlate the findings with the cognitive performance of the patients. We conducted region-of-interest-based analyses of color-coded diffusion-tensor imaging in 12 patients with early AD (age 69.8+/-8.0 years; MMSE 25.3+/-1.8) and 16 age- and education-matched healthy controls. Early AD patients showed significantly decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) of the cingulate bundles and the inferior fronto-occipital fascicles bilaterally, whereas FA values of the superior longitudinal fascicles (second division) did not differ significantly between patients and controls. Neuropsychological performance of patients in the verbal episodic memory test domain correlated significantly with disturbances of left cingulate fibre tract integrity. Reduced left cingulate bundle integrity was most strongly correlated with impaired performance in a verbal recognition task (Spearman's rho=0.81, P=0.001). Moreover, Boston naming test performance also correlated with the left cingulate bundle integrity (Spearman's rho=0.71, P=0.009). These findings suggest substantial disturbances of the structural connectivity within long association fibre tracts, especially the cingulate bundles and the inferior fronto-occipital fascicles, in early AD and highlight the important role of the cingulate bundles in verbal recognition.