New developments in fast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have enabled imaging of cerebral haemodynamics. This article describes the theory behind perfusion imaging and provides an overview of the most commonly used MRI technique. Limitations of this technique are described, and the potential clinical applications are discussed, with particular attention to the role of perfusion imaging in the context of stroke and brain tumour. (C) 2003 The Royal College of Radiologists. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.