Brain edema can be classified into three categories: vasogenic, cytotoxic, and interstitial. The mechanism of edema is thought to be different in each type. The authors studied the movement of water molecules in each type of white matter edema in a rat model by using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging. Conventional T2-weighted imaging did not allow distinction between the three types of white matter edema; the three types of edema were, however, distinguished by using diffusion-weighted imaging. The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) of water was different in each type of edema. Water molecules in cytotoxic edema induced by triethyl-tin intoxication showed a smaller and less anisotropic ADC than in normal white matter. In contrast, water in vasogenic edema induced by cold injury had a larger and more anisotropic ADC than in normal white matter. Water in interstitial edema due to kaolin-induced hydrocephalus had an anisotropic and very large ADC.