Studies were performed to determine the possible influence of physiologic motion on the parenchymal intensity of organs in magnetic resonance (MR) images. It is known that periodic motion associated with respiration and cardiac function causes characteristic artifacts in spin-warp images. The present study shows that bulk motion can also cause striking intensity changes at velocities equivalent to the craniocaudal respiratory excursion of organs in the upper abdomen. The magnitude of the effect depends on the velocity and direction of motion with respect to the three orthogonal axes of the imager and on the technical details of the imager and pulse sequence. Large systematic errors in calculated tissue relaxation times are possible due to this phenomenon. The findings have important implications for clinical imaging because motion can cause artifactual changes in the gray-scale relationships among tissues. Some pulse sequences are much less sensitive to these effects. These results provide guidance for selecting MR techniques that reduce the detrimental effect of respiratory and other physiologic motion on examinations of the upper abdomen and thorax.