Episodic memory is typically affected during the course of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Due to the pronounced heterogeneity of functional neuroimaging studies on episodic memory impairments in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD regarding their methodology and findings, we aimed to delineate consistent episodic memory-related brain activation patterns. We performed a systematic, quantitative, coordinate-based whole-brain activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis of 28 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies comprising 292 MCI and 102 AD patients contrasted to 409 age-matched control subjects. We included episodic encoding and/or retrieval phases, investigated the effects of group, verbal or image stimuli and correlated mean Mini-Mental-Status-Examination (MMSE) scores with the modelled activation estimates. MCI patients presented increased right hippocampal activation during memory encoding, decreased activation in the left hippocampus and fusiform gyrus during retrieval tasks, as well as attenuated activation in the right anterior insula/inferior frontal gyrus during verbal retrieval. In AD patients, however, stronger activation within the precuneus during encoding tasks was accompanied by attenuated right hippocampal activation during retrieval tasks. Low cognitive performance (MMSE scores) was associated with stronger activation of the precuneus and reduced activation of the right (para)hippocampus and anterior insula/inferior frontal gyrus. This meta-analysis provides evidence for a specific and probably disease stage-dependent brain activation pattern related to the pathognomonic AD characteristic of episodic memory loss.