Measurement of synaptic activity by Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and its relation to cognitive functions such as episodic memory, working memory and executive functions in healthy humans and patients with neurocognitive disorders have been well documented. In this review, we introduce the concept of PET imaging that allows the observation of a particular biological process in vivo through the use of radio-labelled compounds, its general use to the medical world and its contributions to the understanding of memory systems. We then focus on [(18)F]-2-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG-PET), the radiotracer that is used to measure local cerebral metabolic rate of glucose that is indicative of synaptic activity in the brain. FDG-PET at rest has been at the forefront of functional neuroimaging over the past 3 decades, contributing to the understanding of cognitive functions in healthy humans and how these functional patterns change with cognitive alterations. We discuss methodological considerations that are important for optimizing FDG-PET imaging data prior to analysis. We then highlight the contribution of FDG-PET to the understanding of the patterns of functional differences in non-degenerative pathologies, normal ageing, and age-related neurodegenerative disorders. Through reasonable temporal and spatial resolution, its ability to measure synaptic activity in the whole brain, independently of any specific network and disease, makes it ideal to observe regional functional changes associated with memory impairment.