Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) was applied to characterize intracranial tumours of different hystological types. Seventy patients with intracranial neoplasms were studied before receiving surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. All tumours were characterized by reduced or absent N-acetylasparate and increased signal from choline-containing compounds. Distinctive patterns were observed only for primitive brain neoplasms; high-grade gliomas were differentiated from low-grade ones by higher levels of choline-containing compounds. The metabolic aspects of metastatic lesions were similar to high-grade gliomas. These results, together with the limitations of 1H-MRS and future applications are reviewed.