The biophysical mechanism(s) underlying diffusion-weighted MRI contrast following brain injury remains to be elucidated. Although it is generally accepted that water apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) decreases after brain injury, it is unknown whether this is associated with a decrease in intracellular or extracellular water displacement, or both. To address this question, 2-[19F]luoro-2-deoxyglucose-6-phosphate (2FDG-6P) was employed as a compartment-specific marker in normal and globally ischemic rat brain. Through judicious choice of routes of administration, 2FDG-6P was confined to the intra- or extracellular space. There was no statistical difference between intra- and extracellular 2FDG-6P ADCs in normal or in globally ischemic brain (P > 0.16), suggesting that water ADCs in both compartments are similar. However, ischemia did result in a 40% ADC decrease in both compartments (P < 0.001). Assuming that 2FDG-6P reflects water motion, this study shows that water ADC decreases in both spaces after ischemia, with the reduction of intracellular water motion being the primary source of diffusion-weighted contrast.