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T1 andT2 were measured for white matter (WM) and gray matter (GM) in the human cervical spinal cord at 3T.T1 values were calculated using an inversion-recovery (IR) andB1-corrected double flip angle gradient echo (GRE) and show significant differences (p= 0.002) between WM (IR = 876 ± 27 ms, GRE = 838 ± 54 ms) and GM (IR = 973 ± 33 ms, GRE = 994 ± 54 ms). IR showed significant difference between lateral and dorsal column WM (863 ± 23 ms and 899 ± 18 ms, respectively,p= 0.01) but GRE did not (p= 0.40). There was no significant difference (p= 0.31) inT2 between WM (73 ± 6 ms) and GM (76 ± 3 ms) or between lateral and dorsal columns (lateral: 73 ± 6 ms, dorsal: 72 ± 7 ms,p= 0.59). WM relaxation times were similar to brain structures with very dense fiber packing (e.g., corpus callosum), while GM values resembled deep GM in brain. Optimized sequence parameters for maximal contrast between WM and GM, and between WM and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were derived. Since the spinal cord has rostral-caudal symmetry, we expect these findings to be applicable to the whole cord. Magn Reson Med 60:213–219, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.