Magnetic resonance sequences may be designed to evaluate the diffusion movements of the protons (diffusion-weighted images, DWI). In these images, a bright signal identifies a region where the diffusion along a spatial axis is restricted. The contents of a cystic lesion frequently have the signal intensities of a generic homogeneous hyperproteinic fluid (hypointensity in T1-, hyperintensity in T2-weighted images). DWI may give further information about the microscopic organisation of these fluids: a hyperintense signal indicates the presence of a restricted diffusion, due to some kind of microscopic organisation, at the cellular or macromolecular level. This may provide additional information useful for clinical purposes. We obtained DWI in 24 consecutive patients with intracranial cystic lesions, (19 intra-axial: five abscesses, five gliomas, six metastases, two demyelinating lesions, one neurocysticercosis; five extra-axial: two arachnoid cysts, two epidermoid cysts, one cholesteatoma). We found a strongly hyperintense signal, indicating restricted diffusion, in brain abscesses, epidermoid cysts and cholesteatoma; all the remaining lesions were hypointense or mildly hyperintense. We found these data useful in critical diagnoses, such as in differentiating abscesses from tumours, and in identifying elusive tumours such as epidermoid cysts.