Molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) approaches that detect biomarkers associated with neural activity would allow more direct observation of brain function than current functional MRI based on blood-oxygen-level-dependent contrast. Our objective was to create a synthetic molecular platform with appropriate recognition moieties for zwitterionic neurotransmitters that generate an MR signal change upon neurotransmitter binding. The gadolinium complex (GdL) we report offers ditopic binding for zwitterionic amino acid neurotransmitters, via interactions (i) between the positively charged and coordinatively unsaturated metal center and the carboxylate function and (ii) between a triazacrown ether and the amine group of the neurotransmitters. GdL discriminates zwitterionic neurotransmitters from monoamines. Neurotransmitter binding leads to a remarkable relaxivity change, related to a decrease in hydration number. GdL was successfully used to monitor neural activity in ex vivo mouse brain slices by MRI.