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Preamplification of mechanical signals in external force detection systems can improve overall sensitivity in a case where sensitivity is limited by secondary detection noise. We report experimental data on degenerate and nondegenerate mechanical parametric amplification in GaAs piezoresistive atomic force microscopy cantilevers due to an inherent mechanical nonlinearity. The mechanical nonlinearity is estimated to be a result of curvature at the cantilever base. Characteristics of parametric amplification such as phase sensitive gain, small signal gain, gain saturation, and self-oscillation have been studied. A small signal phase sensitive gain of 19.5 dB was observed for the degenerate parametric amplifier. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.