Brain tumors are a significant public health problem and present several imaging challenges. Neuroimaging plays an integral role in intracranial tumor management, but it is no longer limited to providing anatomic details and identifying tumor related complications. Instead, it has evolved into a comprehensive diagnostic tool that allows characterization of anatomic as well as physiologic alterations to diagnose and grade brain masses and to monitor and assess treatment response and patient prognosis. Sophisticated magnetic resonance imaging techniques allow insight into biological processes and detect functional, hemodynamic, metabolic, cellular and cytoarchitectural alterations. Structural and functional barriers of the brain, as well as its cytoarchitecture, offer opportunities for advanced imaging techniques to exploit unique changes of proton motion, metabolic activity, and hemodynamics created by the presence of tumor. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy, diffusion weighted imaging, diffusion tensor imaging and perfusion weighted imaging have played a pivotal role in the transition of clinical magnetic resonance imaging from a strictly anatomy based discipline to one that combines structure with function. This article provides an overview of physiology based magnetic resonance imaging methods and discusses their role in the diagnosis and classification of the most common intracranial tumors.