AIM: To measure the normal distances (and range) from the tip of the odontoid peg to the different reference skull baselines (Chamberlain's, McGregor's, and McRae's line) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).MATERIALS AND METHODS: We retrospectively evaluated midline sagittal MRI brain images of 200 adults chosen randomly. Patients did not have symptoms or signs suggestive of basilar impression, spinal trauma, vertebral collapse or disease. Using SPSS data analysis program histograms, mean and standard deviation (SD), median and range values were calculated. These findings were then compared with previous plain radiograph measurements.RESULTS: The mean position of the odontoid peg was 1.2 mm (median 1.5 mm, SD 3 mm) below Chamberlain's line; 0.9 mm (median 1.1, SD 3 mm) below McGregor's tine; and 4.6 mm (median 4.8, SD 2.6) below McRae's tine.CONCLUSION: Based on the current population, these results provide the mean and range of normal distances from the odontoid peg to the most frequently used skull baselines using MRI. (c) 2007 The Royal College of Radiologists. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.