Previous studies achieved conflicting results when correlating magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities and cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Recently, the estimation of MS lesion load on T1-weighted images and the analysis of magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) histograms, increased the degree of the correlation between physical disability and MRI findings in MS. We assessed the relationship of conventional and non-conventional MRI-derived measures with frontal lobe dementia in MS. Dual echo, T1-weighted and MT MRI scans of the brain were obtained in 11 MS patients with and in 11 without frontal lobe dementia, matched for age, sex, education and disability. Total (TLL) and frontal (FLL) lesion loads were assessed from T2- and T1-weighted scans. MTR histogram analysis was performed for the whole brain, the frontal lobe and the cerebellum. Median TLL and FLL were significantly higher in cognitively impaired patients on both T2- and T1-weighted scans. The MRI measure that better discriminated the two groups of patients was T1-weighted TLL (median values were 19.1 ml for demented and 1.9 ml for non-demented patients, P=0.006). Average MTR, peak height and location of overall brain and frontal lobe histograms were significantly lower for cognitively impaired than for cognitively intact patients (P values ranged from 0.0001 to 0.001). Cerebellar MTR histogram metrics did not significantly differ in patients with and without cognitive decline. The presence of cognitive decline in MS is associated with the extent and pathological severity of brain MRI abnormalities.