The ability of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to differentiate neoplastic brain cells and their metabolic and structural characteristics is evaluated. We examined 120 patients with brain tumors using a 1.5-tesla MRI unit and MRS. The peak areas of N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), phosphocreatine-creatine (Pcr-Cr), choline-containing compounds (Cho), lactate, lipids, myoinositol, amino acids and the ratios of NAA/Pcr-Cr, NAA/Cho and Cho/Pcr-Cr were calculated by a standard integral algorithm. In normal brain tissue, the following metabolites were identified: NAA at 2.0 ppm, Pcr-Cr at 3.0 ppm and Cho at 3.2 ppm. The different concentrations of the metabolites examined and their role in the biochemical profile of different types of tumors are discussed. The confidence interval of the MRS versus pathology was between 0.9 and 0.954, while it was between 0.52 and 0.631 for MRI versus pathology. The Cho/Pcr-Cr ratio is a very important malignancy marker for histologic tumor grading of astrocytomas. The greater this ratio, the higher the grade of the astrocytoma. NAA/Pcr-Cr together with Cho/Pcr-Cr help specify the presence or absence of a neoplasm. Proton MRS is a useful and promising diagnostic modality not only in diagnosing but also in grading solid brain tumors.