Objective: To investigate the impact of a higher magnetic field strength of 3 Tesla (T) on the detection rate of cortical lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, in particular using a dedicated double inversion recovery (DIR) pulse sequence. Methods: Thirty-four patients with clinically isolated syndromes or definite MS were included. All patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 1.5 T and 3 T, including T2-weighted turbo spin echo (TSE), fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) and DIR sequences. All images were analysed for focal lesions categorised according to their anatomical location. Results: The total number of detected lesions was higher at 3 T across all pulse sequences. We observed significantly higher numbers of lesions involving the cortex at 3 T using a DIR sequence. DIR at 3 T showed 192% more pure intracortical (p<0.001) and 30% more mixed grey matter-white matter lesions (p=0.008). No significant increase in cortical lesions could be detected on the FLAIR and T2-weighted images. Using the T2-weighted and FLAIR sequences, significantly more lesions could be detected at 3 T in the infratentorial, periventricular and juxtacortical white matter. Conclusion: DIR brain MR imaging at 3 T substantially improves the sensitivity of the detection of cortical lesions compared with the standard magnetic field strength of 1.5 T. © European Society of Radiology 2009.