Our purpose was to investigate, by magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy, the metabolite changes in the brains of subjects in the shoemaking industry who had been chronically exposed to organic solvents. A total of 49 male subjects and 30 age-matched healthy volunteers underwent detailed neurological and psychiatric examinations. All subjects had long-echo [repetition time (TR) 2000 ms, echo time (TE) 136 ms] single-voxel MR spectroscopy. Voxels (15 x 15 x 15 mm(3)) were placed in the parietal white matter, thalamus, and basal ganglia. N-acetylaspartate (NAA)/creatine (Cr) and choline (Cho)/Cr ratios were calculated. There was no significant difference between the study subjects and the control group in NAA/Cr ratios obtained from thalamus, basal ganglia, and parietal white matter. Cho/Cr ratios in thalamus. basal ganglia, and parietal white matter were found to be significantly increased compared to controls. There was a positive correlation between basal ganglia Cho/Cr ratio and duration of exposure (r = 0.63). MR spectroscopy should be performed to reveal metabolite changes and determine the degree of brain involvement in solvent-related industry workers. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.