The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) occurs after pathogenesis is advanced and many substantia nigra (SN) dopamine neurons have already died. Now that therapies to block this neuronal loss are under development, it is imperative that the disease be diagnosed at earlier stages and that the response to therapies is monitored. Recent studies suggest this can be accomplished by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detection of neuromelanin (NM), the characteristic pigment of SN dopaminergic, and locus coeruleus (LC) noradrenergic neurons. NM is an autophagic product synthesized via oxidation of catecholamines and subsequent reactions, and in the SN and LC it increases linearly during normal aging. In PD, however, the pigment is lost when SN and LC neurons die. As shown nearly 25 years ago by Zecca and colleagues, NM’s avid binding of iron provides a paramagnetic source to enable electron and nuclear magnetic resonance detection, and thus a means for safe and noninvasive measure in living human brain. Recent technical improvements now provide a means for MRI to differentiate between PD patients and age-matched healthy controls, and should be able to identify changes in SN NM with age in individuals. We discuss how MRI detects NM and how this approach might be improved. We suggest that MRI of NM can be used to confirm PD diagnosis and monitor disease progression. We recommend that for subjects at risk for PD, and perhaps generally for older people, that MRI sequences performed at regular intervals can provide a pre-clinical means to detect presymptomatic PD.