We studied the MRI appearances of the brain in 159 patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) and 2566 age-matched individuals without DM (controls). The images were reviewed for cerebral infarcts, hemorrhage, atrophy and subcortical arteriosclerotic encephalopathy. Cerebral atrophy was significantly more frequent in patients with DM than in controls (P > 0.005) from the sixth to the eighth decade. The frequency of atrophy was 41.2% in the 6th decade, 60.0% in the 7th and 92.3% in the 8th decade in DM, and 19.8%, 38.9% and 56.8% respectively in controls. Unexpectedly, there was no statistically significant difference in the incidences of cerebrovascular diseases at any age.