Our aim was to further characterize the clinical concept of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). We examined the status of visual attention-related processing in such patients in relation to healthy older adults and patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) by measuring performance on a computer-based visual search task. We tested 20 older adult control participants, 13 patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment and 12 patients with AD. Patients with AD and with MCI exhibited a significant detriment in visual search performance compared to the older adult controls. The deficit in visual search was greater for the patients with AD than the patients with MCI. The pattern of results displayed by the MCI group indicates that patients who appear clinically to suffer only from a deficit in memory also display a deficit in visual attention-related processing, which although not as severe as those with AD, represents a significant detriment in such performance compared to that seen in healthy ageing.