PET imaging is a rapidly expanding technique with growing clinical utility. In this review, we have discussed the contribution of functional neuroimaging with PET in elucidating the pathophysiology of parkinsonism. In addition, we emphasize the growing role of this technique in the clinical setting. FDG/PET has become increasingly available at major medical centers and is especially suitable as an aid in the clinical assessment of patients with akinetic-rigid or other movement disorders. Although this technique is essentially quantitative and ideally suited for broad population studies, qualitative and semiquantitative approaches may suffice in the evaluation of individual patients. To the extent that several of the functional imaging models are linear with raw count rates, blood sampling may not be needed in each instance. Moreover recent advances in SPECT perfusion imaging may permit the extension of PET diagnostic criteria to other imaging modalities that are less costly and more accessible in the community setting. New statistical methods for the detection of regional metabolic covariation patterns hold special promise for the development of disease-specific imaging markers, which may permit rapid differential diagnosis, improved drug trials, and possible preclinical detection. F-dopa/PET has provided many important in vivo insights into the nigrostriatal dopamine system and its role in the development of parkinsonism. In contrast to FDG/PET, this technique demands specialized radiochemistry, plasma analysis, and modeling approaches that currently restrict its applicability to a few research PET centers. Several promising developments in radiochemical synthesis, data acquisition, and kinetic modeling may simplify the technique sufficiently to be used in the clinical domain. F-dopa/PET holds particular promise in preclinical screening of individuals at risk for Parkinson's disease on genetic or environmental grounds. This has great significance in view of the concurrent availability of potentially neuroprotective pharmaceuticals. Similarly this technique has great potential in objectively measuring rates of disease progression in normal and treated populations. We believe that with greater availability, these PET techniques and others currently under development will have significant impact on the diagnosis and management of patients with Parkinson's disease and related disorders.