Brain motion during the cardiac cycle was measured prospectively in 10 healthy volunteers by using a phase-contrast cine magnetic resonance (MR) pulse sequence. The major cerebral lobes, diencephalon, brain stem, cerebellum, cerebellar tonsils, and spinal cord were studied. The overall pattern of brain motion showed caudal motion of the central structures (diencephalon, brain stem, and cerebellar tonsils) shortly after carotid systole, with concurrent cephalic motion of the major cerebral lobes and posterior cerebellar hemisphere. Peak brain displacement was in the range of 0.1-0.5 mm for all the structures except the cerebellar tonsils, which had greater displacement (0.4 mm +/- 0.16 [mean +/- standard error of mean]). Caudal motion of the central structures did not occur simultaneously but progressed in a caudal-to-rostral and posterior-to-anterior sequence, being seen first in the cerebellar tonsils and then later in the diencephalon (hypothalamus). Caudal motion of the low brain stem and cerebellar tonsil was simultaneous with caudal motion of cerebrospinal fluid in the cervical subarachnoid space. Oscillatory flow in the aqueduct was delayed compared with brain stem motion.