Magnetic resonance (MR) image-based computerized segmentation was used to measure various intracranial compartments in 49 normal volunteers ranging in age from 24 to 80 years to determine age-related changes in brain, ventricular, and extraventricular cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) volumes. The total intracranial volume (sum of brain, ventricular, and extraventricular CSF) averaged 1469 +/- 102 cm3 in men and 1289 +/- 111 cm3 in women. The difference was attributable primarily to brain volume, which accounted for 88.6% of the respective intracranial volumes in both sexes, but was significantly larger in men (1302 +/- 112 cm3) than in women (1143 +/- 105 cm3). In both, the cranial CSF volume averaged 11.4%. Total intracranial volume did not change with age, although the normalized brain volume of both men and women began to decrease after the age of 40 years. This decrease was best reflected by expansion of the extraventricular CSF volume which, after the age of 50 years, was more marked in men than in women. The volume of the cranial CSF, as determined by MR image-based computerized segmentation, is considerably larger than traditionally accepted and resides mostly extraventricularly. Expansion of CSF volume with age provides a good index of brain shrinkage although evolving changes and growth of the head with age tend to confound the results.