1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy allows the regional quantitation of a number of metabolites from the brain in a noninvasive fashion. Spectra were obtained from 5 normal children and 25 children with brain tumors. Choline (Cho), N-acetylaspartate (NAA), creatine and phosphocreatine, and lactate were quantitated in the form of ratios. The brains of normal children showed relatively high concentrations of Cho and NAA and virtually no lactate, as has been shown in adults. Benign astrocytomas and ependymomas were characterized by an elevation of the Cho:NAA ratio and an abnormal accumulation of lactate. Intrinsic malignant tumors were remarkable for an even higher Cho:NAA ratio but had no more lactate than was found in the benign tumors. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy may prove useful in characterizing neoplastic tissue in conjunction with more conventional imaging modalities.