Paramagnetic manganese can be employed as a calcium surrogate to sensitize the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to the processing of calcium during the bone formation process. At low doses, after just 48h of exposure, osteoblasts take up sufficient quantities of manganese to cause marked reductions in the water proton T1 values compared with untreated cells. After just 24h of exposure, 25??M MnCl2 had no significant effect on cell viability. However, for mineralization studies 100??M MnCl2 was used to avoid issues of manganese depletion in calvarial organ cultures and a post-treatment delay of 48h was implemented to ensure that manganese ions taken up by osteoblasts is deposited as mineral. All specimens were identified by their days in vitro (DIV). Using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES), we confirmed that Mn-treated calvariae continued to deposit mineral in culture and that the mineral composition was similar to that of age-matched controls. Notably there was a significant decrease in the manganese content of DIV18 compared with DIV11 specimens, possibly relating to less manganese sequestration as a result of mineral maturation. More importantly, quantitative T1 maps of Mn-treated calvariae showed localized reductions in T1 values over the calvarial surface, indicative of local variations in the surface manganese content. This result was verified with laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). We also found that ??R1 values, calculated by subtracting the relaxation rate of Mn-treated specimens from the relaxation rate of age-matched controls, were proportional to the surface manganese content and thus mineralizing activity. From this analysis, we established that mineralization of DIV4 and DIV11 specimens occurred in all tissue zones, but was reduced for DIV18 specimens because of mineral maturation with less manganese sequestration. In DIV25 specimens, active mineralization was observed for the expanding superficial surface and ??R1 values were increased due to the mineralization of small, previously unmineralized areas. Our findings support the use of manganese-enhanced MRI (MEMRI) to study well-orchestrated mineralizing events that occur during embryonic development. In conclusion, MEMRI is more sensitive to the study of mineralization than traditional imaging approaches. ?? 2011.