Neuroimaging constitudes an important component in the diagnosis of the underlying infectious agents in central nervous system (CNS) infections. Despite the recent advances in neuroimaging evaluation, the diagnosis of unclear infectious CNS diseases remains a challenge. Conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used in routine practice to identify abnormal areas involved in CNS infections. More recent MRI techniques, such as diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), provide additional helpful information in the assessment of CNS infectious lesions compared with conventional MRI. This pictorial essay summarizes the clinical role of DWI in the demonstration of CNS infections including meningitis, encephalitis and pyogenic infections, and determination of the lesions compared with conventional MRI on the basis of physiopathologic phases of the infections.