Magnetic brain stimulation (MBS) is widely used for the investigation of brain function in man, but there have been only a few reports of its safety in animals. These results were predominantly benign, but the effectiveness of stimulation in animals is unclear. Because the stimulators produced obvious motor effects in humans, or had a comparable peak magnetic field strength, they were assumed to produce comparable electric field intensities and neuronal effects in animal brains. We tested this assumption using 3 stimulus coils of different sizes and design, plus 6 saline-filled spheres that spanned a range of volume from 0.5 to 1800 ml. The induced electric field diminished monotonically with decreasing radius, by factors of 4.7-6.2 at the extremes of size. Comparable results were found using a mathematical model. These results suggest that the efficiency of magnetic stimulation is drastically reduced in smaller brains, and that threshold and safety studies in some animal models may not be valid.