High-field-strength (1.5-T) MR imaging was used to evaluate 47 patients with definite multiple sclerosis and 42 neurologically normal control patients. Abnormal, multiple foci of increased signal intensity on T2-weighted images, most prominent in the periventricular white matter, were apparent in 43 of 47 MS patients and in two of 42 control patients. A previously undescribed finding of relatively decreased signal intensity most evident in the putamen and thalamus on T2-weighted images was seen in 25 of 42 MS patients and correlated with the degree of white-matter abnormality. In the normal control patients a prominently decreased signal intensity was noted in the globus pallidus, as compared with the putamen or thalamus, correlating closely with the distribution of ferric iron as determined in normal Perls'-stained autopsy brains. The decreased signal intensity (decreased T2) is due to ferritin, which causes local magnetic field inhomogeneities and is proportional to the square of the field strength. The decreased T2 in the thalamus and striatum in MS may be related to abnormally increased iron accumulation in these locales with the underlying mechanism remaining speculative.