In the investigation of ischemic stroke, conventional structural magnetic resonance (MR) techniques (e.g., T1-weighted imaging, T2-weighted imaging, and proton density-weighted imaging) are valuable for the assessment of infarct extent and location beyond the first 12 to 24 hours after onset, and can be combined with MR angiography to noninvasively assess the intracranial and extracranial vasculature. However, during the critical first 6 to 12 hours, the probable period of greatest therapeutic opportunity, these methods do not adequately assess the extent and severity of ischemia. Recent developments in functional MR imaging are showing great promise for the detection of developing focal cerebral ischemic lesions within the first hours. These include (1) diffusion-weighted imaging, which provides physiologic information about the self-diffusion of water, thereby detecting one of the first elements in the pathophysiologic cascade leading to ischemic injury; and (2) perfusion imaging. The detection of acute intraparenchymal hemorrhagic stroke by susceptibility weighted MR has also been reported. In combination with MR angiography, these methods may allow the detection of the site, extent, mechanism, and tissue viability of acute stroke lesions in one imaging study. Imaging of cerebral metabolites with MR spectroscopy along with diffusion-weighted imaging and perfusion imaging may also provide new insights into ischemic stroke pathophysiology. In light of these advances in structural and functional MR, their potential uses in the study of the cerebral ischemic pathophysiology and in clinical practice are described, along with their advantages and limitations.