The purpose of this study was to determine the sensitivity of discourse gist measures to the early cognitive-linguistic changes in Alzheimer disease (AD) and in the preclinical stages. Differences in discourse abilities were examined in 25 cognitively normal adults, 24 adults with mild probable AD, and 20 adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) at gist and detail levels of discourse processing. The authors found that gist and detail levels of discourse processing were significantly impaired in persons with AD and MCI as compared with normal control subjects. Gist-level discourse processing abilities showed minimal overlap between cognitively normal control subjects and those with mild AD. Moreover, the majority of the persons with MCI performed in the range of AD on gist measures. These findings indicate that discourse gist measures hold promise as a diagnostic complement to enhance early detection of AD. Further studies are needed to determine how early the discourse gist deficits arise in AD.