Diseases of the small airspaces represent an increasingly important health problem. Asthma is primarily a disease of airway dysfunction, while chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with abnormalities in both the small airways and the alveoli. Conventional diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of hyperpolarized noble gases, because of the short T(2)* of the gas, is only capable of monitoring diffusion over short times and hence only short distances. Diffusion imaging is therefore only sensitive to changes in small structures of the lung (primarily the alveoli), and will not adequately interrogate diffusion along the longitudinal axes of bronchi and bronchioles. In this communication we present a new method, termed diffusional kurtosis imaging (DKI), that is particularly sensitive to diffusion over longer distances. DKI may therefore be more sensitive to abnormalities in the bronchioles and bronchi than conventional diffusion imaging. Preliminary DKI measurements on healthy human subjects and one patient with symptoms suggestive of small airway disease are presented. Although the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in the patient was similar to that in the normal controls, diffusional kurtosis was markedly reduced. This suggests that DKI measurements may be useful for assessing diseases of the small airways.