This study examined the functionality of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) and posterior cingulate (PC) in mild cognitive impairment amnestic type (MCI), a syndrome that puts patients at greater risk for developing Alzheimer disease (AD). Functional MRI (fMRI) was used to identify regions normally active during encoding of novel items and recognition of previously learned items in a reference group of 77 healthy young and middle-aged adults. The pattern of activation in this group guided further comparisons between 14 MCI subjects and 14 age-matched controls. The MCI patients exhibited less activity in the PC during recognition of previously learned items, and in the right hippocampus during encoding of novel items, despite comparable task performance to the controls. Reduced fMRI signal change in the MTL supports prior studies implicating the hippocampus for encoding new information. Reduced signal change in the PC converges with recent research on its role in recognition in normal adults as well as metabolic decline in people with genetic or cognitive risk for AD. Our results suggest that a change in function in the PC may account, in part, for memory recollection failure in AD.