Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plays an important role in differentiating idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) from its atypical forms. Causes like chronic vascular disease and normal-pressure hydrocephalus are easily visualized. Furthermore, specific atrophy patterns can be found with multi-system atrophies, corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy. In addition the review also deals with specific imaging criteria of other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Wilson's disease, neurodegeneration with iron accumulation in the brain and Huntington's chorea. MRI is of minor importance for differentiating Alzheimer's disease from frontotemporal dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. However, specific patterns are found in cerebral amyloid angiopathy and prion diseases..