HIV infection results in a highly prevalent syndrome of cognitive and motor disorders designated as HIV-associated dementia (HAD). Neurologic dysfunction resembling HAD has been documented in cats infected with strain PPR of the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), whereas another highly pathogenic strain (C36) has not been known to cause neurologic signs. Animals experimentally infected with equivalent doses of FIV-C36 or FIV-PPR, and uninfected controls were evaluated by magnetic resonance diffusion-weighted imaging (DW-MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) at 17.5-18 weeks post-infection, as part of a study of viral clade pathogenesis in FIV-infected cats. The goals of the MR imaging portion of the project were to determine whether this methodology was capable of detecting early neuropathophysiology in the absence of outward manifestation of neurological signs and to compare the MR imaging results for the two viral strains expected to have differing degrees of neurologic effects. We hypothesized that there would be increased diffusion, evidenced by the apparent diffusion coefficient as measured by DW-MRI, and altered metabolite ratios measured by MRS, in the brains of FIV-PPR-infected cats relative to C36-infected cats and uninfected controls. Increased apparent diffusion coefficients were seen in the white matter, gray matter, and basal ganglia of both the PPR and C36-infected (asymptomatic) cats. Thalamic MRS metabolite ratios did not differ between groups. The equivalently increased diffusion by DW-MRI suggests similar indirect neurotoxicity mechanisms for the two viral genotypes. DW-MRI is a sensitive tool to detect neuropathophysiological changes in vivo that could be useful during longitudinal studies of FIV.