Normal structure and basic functional anatomy of the brainstem were studied using anatomic sections obtained with a cryomicrotome whole-organ sectioning technique. Major tracts and nuclei were identified and their function summarized. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brainstem was performed on 10 normal volunteers. By comparing these images with the corresponding anatomic sections, normal structures, including major tracts and nuclei, were identified. Knowledge of location and function of clinically important brainstem nuclei and tracts is necessary for optimal magnetic resonance image interpretation.