We assess diffusion-weighted MR images in the differential diagnosis of intracranial brain tumors and tumor-like conditions. Heavily diffusion-weighted (b = 1100 or 1200 s/mm2) axial images were obtained with single-shot echo-planar technique in 93 patients with pathologically confirmed various intracranial tumors and tumor-like conditions with diffusion gradient perpendicular to the images. We compared signal intensity of the lesions with those of gray and white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). In 29 cases (31.1%) the lesions were isointense to gray and/or white matter. However, 5 cases (5.4%) showed extremely increased signal intensity: two epidermoid cysts; two chordomas; and one brain abscess. The entire portion of a tumor was markedly hyperintense in 10 cases (10.8%): four malignant lymphomas; four medulloblastomas; one germinoma; and one pineoblastoma. A CSF-like hypointense signal was seen in many cystic tumors, and cystic or necrotic portions of tumors. A neurosarcoid granulation was the only solid lesion showing characteristically a hypointense signal like CSF. The combination of markedly hyperintense and hypointense signals was seen generally in hemorrhagic tumors. Diffusion-weighted echo-planar MR imaging is useful in the differential diagnosis of brain tumors and tumor-like conditions, and suggests specific histological diagnosis in some cases.