Recently, diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI) has been shown to visualize acute ischemic lesions in the brain before changes are observable with conventional magnetic resonance imaging. However, the underlying mechanisms of these acute DWI changes are unclear and may include both reversible and irreversible damage. In this study, we demonstrate that acute DWI lesions may be reversed with MK801 therapy postischemia. Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 12) were subjected to middle cerebral artery occlusion and DWI scans were obtained beginning 60 min postocclusion. Distinct regions of hyperintensity were observed in the basal ganglia and cortex, corresponding with the expected distribution of ischemia in this model. After the first scan, animals were treated with MK801 (0.5 mg/kg i.v.) or normal saline and subsequently scanned again 30 and 60 min after treatment. In the control group, the area of hyperintense lesions continued to increase, by 55% in the cortex and 57% in the basal ganglia. MK801 therapy significantly (p < 0.01) reduced the area of damage by the third DWI scan at 60 min posttreatment (-50% cortex, -22% basal ganglia, -41% total hemisphere) compared to pretreatment scans. Tetrazolium (TTC) stains at 24 h confirmed that MK801 significantly reduced the volumes of infarction (p < 0.05). These results demonstrate that significant portions of the acute ischemic lesion on DWI are reversible with pharmacologic intervention.