Placental insufficiency with fetal intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is an important cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity and is subsequently associated with significant neurodevelopmental impairment in cognitive function, attention capacity, and school performance. The underlying biologic cause for this association is unclear. Twenty-eight preterm infants (gestational age 32.5 +/- 1.9 wk) were studied by early and term magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An advanced quantitative volumetric three-dimensional MRI technique was used to measure brain tissue volumes in 14 premature infants with placental insufficiency, defined by abnormal antenatal Doppler measurements and mean birth weights <10(th) percentile (1246 +/- 299 g) (IUGR) and in 14 preterm infants matched for gestational age with normal mean birth weights 1843 +/- 246 g (control). Functional outcome was measured at term in all infants by a specialized assessment scale of preterm infant behavior. Premature infants with IUGR had a significant reduction in intracranial volume (mean +/- SD: 253.7 +/- 29.9 versus 300.5 +/- 43.5 mL, p < 0.01) and in cerebral cortical gray matter (mean +/- SD: 77.2 +/- 16.3 versus 106.8 +/- 24.6 mL, p < 0.01) when measured within the first 2 wk of life compared with control premature infants. These findings persisted at term with intracranial volume (mean +/- SD: 429.3 +/- 47.9 versus 475.9 +/- 53.4 mL, p < 0.05) and cerebral cortical gray matter (mean +/- SD: 149.3 +/- 29.2 versus 189 +/- 34.2 mL, p < 0.01). Behavioral assessment at term showed a significantly less mature score in the subsystem of attention-interaction availability in IUGR infants (p < 0.01). Cerebral cortical gray matter volume at term correlated with attention-interaction capacity measured at term (r = 0.45, p < 0.05). These results suggest that placental insufficiency with IUGR have specific structural and functional consequences on cerebral cortical brain development. These findings may provide insight into the structural-functional correlate for the developmental deficits associated with IUGR.