Studies on the neuroprotective effect of magnesium treatment in animal models of focal and global cerebral ischemia have produced inconsistent results. Nevertheless, two magnesium acute stroke phase III trials (IMAGES and FAST-MAG) have either been completed or are planned. Therefore, we decided to re-evaluate the efficacy of magnesium following focal cerebral ischaemia in rats. Two experiments were carried out in two independent laboratories based in Australia. Both used the intraluminal thread method to induce focal cerebral ischemia in the rat. In the Perth study the middle cerebral artery (MCA) was occluded for 45 min and body temperature was controlled during and after ischemia. In the Canberra laboratory the MCA was occluded for 2 h and body temperature was only controlled during Surgery. Three different doses (180, 360, or 720 mumol/kg) of MgSO4 in the Perth study and two different MgSO4 doses (370 or 740 mumol/kg) in the Canberra study were intravenously or intra-arterially administered immediately before ischemia. Control animals were given an equal volume of normal saline just before ischemia in both studies. Twenty-four or 72 h post-ischemia, infarct volume was determined following 2',3',5'-triphenyl-2H-tetrazolium chloride (TTC) staining. No significant differences (P > 0.05) in total, cortical and striatal infarct volumes between saline and MgSO4 treated animals were observed in either study. We conclude MgSO4 does not reduce infarct volume when administered before focal cerebral ischemia in rats. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ireland Ltd and The Japan Neuroscience Society. All rights reserved.