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In this study we utilized manganese-enhanced MRI (MEMRI) to evaluate the in vivo transneuronal efficiency of manganese ion (Mn2+) movement as a means to assess overall changes in neuronal function. We designated this extension the manganese transfer index (MTI) value. To evaluate the MTI value as an index of transneuronal physiology we examined both pharmacological agents and different mouse models of neuronal dysfunction. We found that treatment with isoflurane, which attenuates synaptic vesicle release, or memantine, which attenuates postsynaptic uptake of Ca2+ as well as Mn2+, resulted in a decrease in the MTI value. Furthermore, we evaluated if changes in the MTI value can be detected in three knockout mice with altered brain function accompanied either with or without neurodegeneration. Our data demonstrate that the MTI values either decreased or increased in response to different functional as well as anatomical changes. These results demonstrate the potential utility of the MTI value as an in vivo index for the detection of changes in neuronal function in animal models of human disease. Magn Reson Med 60:169–175, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.