The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) of choline-containing compounds (Cho), creatine and phosphocreatine (Cre), N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), lactate, and water was measured in normal rat brain, and in the ischemic and contralateral region of rat brain approximately 3 and 24 h after induction of focal cerebral ischemia. After 3 h of ischemia, the ADC of Cre and NAA in the ischemic region had significantly decreased by 29% and 19%, respectively (P <0.05). Lactate ADC was also obtained in the ischemic region. After 24 h of focal ischemia, no ADC values could be measured for NAA, Cre and Cho in the ischemic region because their concentrations had become too low. The ADCs of lactate and water in the ischemic volume were virtually identical at 3 and 24 h after occlusion. The experiments suggest that the ADC decrease of water after induction of ischemia is partly caused by changes in the diffusion characteristics of the intracellular compartment.