We investigated the nature and extent of brain involvement in myotonic dystrophy (DM), examining possible T2 relaxation abnormalities in the brain of 20 patients with adult-onset DM and 20 sex- and age-matched normal controls. Brain MRI was performed at 0.5 T, and T2 values were calculated from signal intensity in two echoes. Regions of interest included: frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital and callosal (rostral and splenial) normal-appearing white matter; frontal, occipital, insular and hippocampal cortex; caudate nucleus, putamen, globus pallidus and thalamus. All white-matter and occipital and right frontal cortex regions showed a significantly longer T2 in the patients. Multiple regression analysis, including grey- and white-matter T2 as dependent variables, plus age at onset and at imaging, disease duration, muscular disability, brain atrophy and CTG trinucleotide repeats as independent variables, revealed that only white-matter T2 elongation and disease duration correlated positively. White-matter involvement in DM is more extensive than previously reported by MRI and neuropathological studies and seems to be progressive in the course of disease.