To minimize the variability in the extent of lesions made by injections of the excitotoxin ibotenic acid in rhesus monkeys, we developed and validated an MRI-based method to determine the efficacy of the injections soon after surgery. T2-weighted MR images were obtained 6-11 days after surgery from 17 brain hemispheres of monkeys that had received bilateral lesions of either the hippocampal formation (HF), perirhinal cortex, or parahippocampal cortex. The extent of lesion estimated from the hypersignal that appeared in and outside of the targeted area on these MR images was compared with the extent of damage assessed histologically after survival periods ranging from 120-370 days. Highly significant correlations (r values between 0.85-0.99) were found between these two measures for several regions in the medial temporal lobe. Based on this finding, lack of hypersignal in the targeted area of some Ss was followed by successful reinjection of the neurotoxin to create more complete cell loss prior to the postoperative phase of the study. We also assessed the relationship between a postoperative reduction in HF volume, measured from T1-weighted MR images, and the extent of damage determined histologically in 14 hemispheres of monkeys with bilateral excitotoxic HF lesions. The HF volume decreases sharply after surgery until 40-50 days postoperatively, after which there is only a minor further decrease. Based on this finding, we obtained T1-weighted MR images at least 44 days but in most cases close to 1 year after surgery. A highly significant positive correlation (r = 0.95, P < 0.001) was found between neuronal damage and volume reduction, with nearly complete neuronal damage (96-99%) corresponding to a volume reduction of 68-79%. These MRI-based methods thus provide an accurate in vivo evaluation of the locus and extent of neurotoxic lesions. Application of these methods can ensure that each animal in the experiment is used effectively.