Multislice proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging permits metabolic analysis of brain tissue in vivo by data acquisition in four oblique axial slices, each 15-mm thick and divided into 0.8-ml single-volume elements. We applied this technique to the systematic study of 25 patients with adrenoleukodystrophy: 3 with the severe childhood or adult cerebral form of the disease, 5 with adrenomyeloneuropathy, 12 with no demonstrable neurological involvement, and 5 women heterozygous for adrenoleukodystrophy who had some degree of neurological disability. Abnormalities on magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging included a reduction in N-acetyl aspartate, an increase in choline-containing compounds, and at times, an increase in lactate. Five patients showed abnormalities in the presence of normal-appearing magnetic resonance images, and in 8 other patients the alterations on spectroscopic images were more severe than those demonstrable by magnetic resonance imaging. Correlation with clinical course suggests that an increase in the choline-containing compounds is associated with an active demyelinative process, whereas such compounds are not elevated in lesions that are stable. We conclude that magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging is a more sensitive indicator of early neurological involvement than is magnetic resonance imaging, and that the character of abnormalities detected by the former technique may serve as a gauge of the degree of activity of the demyelinating process and as a guide to the selection and evaluation of therapeutic approaches.