A new pulse sequence for in vivo diffusion measurements by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is introduced. The pulse sequence was tested on phantoms to evaluate the accuracy, reproducibility and inplane variations. The sensitivity of the sequence was tested by measuring the self diffusion coefficient of water with different temperatures. This phantom study showed that the water self diffusion could be measured accurately and that the inplane deviation was less than ±10 per cent. Seven healthy volunteers were studied with a 10 mm thick slice through the lateral ventricles, clear differences between grey and white matter as well as regional differences within the white matter were seen. In two patients with infarction, alternations in water self diffusion were seen in the region of the infarct. Likewise, pronounced changes in brain water self diffusion were observed in a patient with benign intracranial hypertension. The results indicate that brain water self diffusion can be measured in vivo with reasonable accuracy. The clinical examples suggest that diffusion measurements may be clinically useful adding further information about in vivo MR tissue characterization.