While conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures signal primarily from the hydrogen nuclei of water, magnetization transfer (MT) MRI indirectly detects macromolecular associated hydrogen nuclei via their magnetic interaction with the observable water. In the normal adult CNS, white matter exhibits the largest MT effect due to the macromolecular content of the highly structured and lipid rich myelin. Pathologies which alter the structural integrity and the relative macromolecular-water composition, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), therefore show abnormal MT. Conventional MRI, which has a high MS lesion detection sensitivity but poor specificity in terms of differentiating the pathological state of a plaque, can thus be supplemented by MT to provide more specific information on the extent of demyelination and axonal loss. In this paper we review the basic concepts of MT imaging and its role in MS lesion characterization.