Abstract The departure from purely mono-exponential decay of the signal, as observed from brain tissue following a diffusion-sensitized sequence, has prompted the search for alternative models to characterize these unconventional water diffusion dynamics. Several approaches have been proposed in the last few years. While multi-exponential models have been applied to characterize brain tissue, several unresolved controversies about the interpretations of the results have motivated the search for alternative models that do not rely on the Gaussian diffusion hypothesis. In this brief review, diffusional kurtosis imaging (DKI) and anomalous diffusion imaging (ADI) techniques are addressed and compared with diffusion tensor imaging. Theoretical and experimental issues are briefly described to allow readers to understand similarities, differences and limitations of these two non-Gaussian models. However, since the ultimate goal is to improve specificity, sensitivity and spatial localization of diffusion MRI for the detection of brain diseases, special attention will be paid on the clinical feasibility of the proposed techniques as well as on the context of brain pathology investigations.