Proton magnetic resonance imaging enables non-invasive monitoring of lesion formation in multiple sclerosis and has an important role in assessing the potential effects of therapy. T2-weighted and short tau inversion recovery magnetic resonance imaging were used to assess the effect of a neurotrophic adrenocorticotrophic hormone4-9 analogue [H-Met(O2)-Glu-His-Phe-d-Lys-Phe-OH] on the volume of lesions in the brains of rats suffering from chronic experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, an animal equivalent of multiple sclerosis. Lesion volume was monitored during a five-month period. Magnetic resonance imaging indicated that treatment with the adrenocorticotrophic hormone4-9 analogue significantly reduced the lesion volume by 84 and 85% 10 and 20 weeks after lesion induction, respectively. Furthermore, peptide treatment significantly reduced chronic experimental allergic encephalomyelitis-related neurological symptoms during the chronic phase of the disease (week 3 until week 20 after lesion induction). Both functional and morphological recovery were considerably advanced by peptide treatment. Twenty weeks after lesion induction rats with chronic experimental allergic encephalomyelitis were killed for histological analysis, to correlate magnetic resonance imaging findings with morphological changes. The regions of abnormally high signal intensities on T2-weighted magnetic resonance images coincided with areas of demyelination and concomitant widespread inflammatory infiltration, oedema formation and enlarged ventricles. The improved neurological status and the 84% reduction in the lesion volume in the cerebrum of rats chronic experimental allergic encephalomyelitis point to the potential value of trophic peptides in the development of strategies for limiting the damage caused by central demyelinating lesions in syndromes such as multiple sclerosis.