We have analyzed magnetic resonance images in 33 patients; 18 patients with Parkinson's disease, 1 patient with diurnally fluctuating progressive dystonia, 1 patient with pure akinesia, 6 patients with multiple system atrophy, 1 patient with flunarizine induced parkinsonism, and 4 patients with unclassified parkinsonism. The MR images were obtained using a 1.5-T GE MR System. A spin-echo pulse sequence was used with a TE of 30 msec and 80 msec and a TR of 2000 msec. No signal abnormalities were seen in any patient with Parkinson's disease but 3 showed slightly decreased signal intensity of the putamen on T2-weighted sequences. Patients with diurnally fluctuating progressive dystonia and pure akinesia evidensed no abnormal findings. All six patients with multiple system atrophy demonstrated decreased signal intensity of the putamen, particularly along their lateral and posterior portions, and an enlarged substantia nigra. Atrophy of the pons and cerebellum was detected in all cases with multiple system atrophy. One case of flunarizine induced parkinsonism showed slightly decreased signal intensity of the putamen. Four cases of unclassified parkinsonism showed decreased signal in the putamen on T2-weighted sequences. Magnetic resonance imaging has the potential to become a useful diagnostic tool in the management of parkinsonism. (author).