Diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) can be used to estimate excess kurtosis, which is a dimensionless measure for the deviation of water diffusion profile from Gaussian distribution. Several recent studies have applied DKI to probe the restricted water diffusion in biological tissues. The directional analysis has also been developed to obtain the directionally specific kurtosis. However, these studies could not directly evaluate the sensitivity of DKI in detecting subtle neural tissue alterations. Brain maturation is known to involve various biological events that can affect water diffusion properties, thus providing a sensitive platform to evaluate the efficacy of DKI. In this study, in vivo DKI experiments were performed in normal Sprague-Dawley rats of 3 different ages: postnatal days 13, 31 and 120 (N=6 for each group). Regional analysis was then performed for 4 white matter (WM) and 3 gray matter (GM) structures. Diffusivity and kurtosis estimates derived from DKI were shown to be highly sensitive to the developmental changes in these chosen structures. Conventional diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) parameters were also computed using monoexponential model, yielding reduced sensitivity and directional specificity in monitoring the brain maturation changes. These results demonstrated that, by measuring directionally specific diffusivity and kurtosis, DKI offers a more comprehensive and sensitive detection of tissue microstructural changes. Such imaging advance can provide a better MR diffusion characterization of neural tissues, both WM and GM, in normal, developmental and pathological states.