Functional MRI (fMRI) of the visual cortex was evaluated in 42 sedated 18-month-old infants (mean corrected age; 31 males, 11 females) with or without periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). Data from 14 infants could not be evaluated because of movement artefacts. Ten of the remaining 28 infants showed no significant fMRI response upon visual stimulation. In 18 infants, a significant signal change upon stimulation was found in the visual cortex: in 17 a signal decrease and in one a signal increase. Functional changes were located mainly in the anterior part of the visual cortex. Seven of the 28 infants had normal MRI and 21 showed variable occipital PVL. An fMRI response was equally frequent in infants without PVL (4 of 7 infants) and with PVL (14 of 21 infants). In conclusion, fMRI was shown to be feasible in sedated infants. No correlation was found between functional activation and the presence or absence of occipital PVL. Type of fMRI response (signal decrease) and localization (anterior part of the visual cortex) are different from those seen in adults, probably reflecting a combination of sedation effects and immaturity of the visual system. At present, fMRI is a highly promising research tool; its clinical relevance still has to be established.