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With the increased interest in computer-aided image analysis methods, there is a greater need for objective methods of algorithm evaluation. Validation of in vivo MRI studies is complicated by a lack of reference data and the difficulty of constructing anatomically realistic physical phantoms. The authors present here an extensible MRI simulator that efficiently generates realistic three-dimensional (3-D) brain images using a hybrid Bloch equation and tissue template simulation that accounts for image contrast, partial volume, and noise. This allows image analysis methods to be evaluated with controlled degradations of image data.