The scope of this review focuses on recent applications in preclinical and clinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) toward accomplishing the goals of early detection and responses to therapy in animal models of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Driven by the outstanding efforts of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a truly invaluable resource, the initial use of MRI in AD imaging has been to assess changes in brain anatomy, specifically assessing brain shrinkage and regional changes in white matter tractography using diffusion tensor imaging. However, advances in MRI have led to multiple efforts toward imaging amyloid beta plaques first without and then with the use of MRI contrast agents. These technological advancements have met with limited success and are not yet appropriate for the clinic. Recent developments in molecular imaging inclusive of high-power liposomal-based MRI contrast agents as well as fluorine 19 ((19)F) MRI and manganese enhanced MRI have begun to propel promising advances toward not only plaque imaging but also using MRI to detect perturbations in subcellular processes occurring within the neuron. This review concludes with a discussion about the necessity for the development of novel preclinical models of AD that better recapitulate human AD for the imaging to truly be meaningful and for substantive progress to be made toward understanding and effectively treating AD. Furthermore, the continued support of outstanding programs such as ADNI as well as the development of novel molecular imaging agents and MRI fast scanning sequences will also be requisite to effectively translate preclinical findings to the clinic.