Cognitive event-related potential (ERP) studies of memory and language impairments in amnesia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are reviewed. Well-circumscribed lesions of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) or diencephalon causing an amnestic syndrome, an inability to encode and retrieve episodic memories beyond the brief duration of working memory, appear to produce altered plasticity of the late positive P600 component, but usually spare P300 and N400 components. The neuropathology of AD affects MTL and extends to neocortical association areas, causing deficits of episodic and semantic memory. In AD dementia, the P300, N400, and P600 all commonly show abnormalities. ERP studies of individuals with mild cognitive impairment may reveal neurophysiological changes prior to the emergence of clinical deficits, which could advance the early detection and diagnosis of AD.