Cortical gray matter volume and resting state cortical electroencephalographic rhythms are typically abnormal in subjects with amnesic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here we tested the hypothesis that in amnesic MCI and AD subjects, abnormalities of EEG rhythms are a functional reflection of cortical atrophy across the disease. Eyes-closed resting state EEG data were recorded in 57 healthy elderly (Nold), 102 amnesic MCI, and 108 AD patients. Cortical gray matter volume was indexed by magnetic resonance imaging recorded in the MCI and AD subjects according to Alzheimer's disease neuroimaging initiative project (http://www.adni-info.org/). EEG rhythms of interest were delta (2-4 Hz), theta (4-8 Hz), alpha1 (8-10.5 Hz), alpha2 (10.5-13 Hz), beta1 (13-20 Hz), beta2 (20-30 Hz), and gamma (30-40 Hz). These rhythms were indexed by LORETA. Compared with the Nold, the MCI showed a decrease in amplitude of alpha 1 sources. With respect to the Nold and MCI, the AD showed an amplitude increase of delta sources, along with a strong amplitude reduction of alpha 1 sources. In the MCI and AD subjects as a whole group, the lower the cortical gray matter volume, the higher the delta sources, the lower the alpha 1 sources. The better the score to cognitive tests the higher the gray matter volume, the lower the pathological delta sources, and the higher the alpha sources. These results suggest that in amnesic MCI and AD subjects, abnormalities of resting state cortical EEG rhythms are not epiphenomena but are strictly related to neurodegeneration (atrophy of cortical gray matter) and cognition. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.