Kernicterus, currently used to describe both the neuropathology of bilirubin-induced brain injury and its associated clinical findings, is a complex syndrome. The neurobiology of kernicterus, including the determinants and mechanisms of neuronal injury, is discussed along with traditional and evolving definitions ranging from classical kernicterus with athetoid cerebral palsy, impaired upward gaze and deafness, to isolated conditions, for example, auditory neuropathy or dys-synchrony (AN/AD), and subtle bilirubin-induced neurological dysfunction (BIND). The clinical expression of BIND varies with location, severity, and time of assessment, influenced by the amount, duration and developmental age of exposure to excessive free bilirubin. Although total serum bilirubin (TSB) is important, kernicterus cannot be defined based solely on TSB. For study purposes kernicterus may be defined in term and near-term infants with TSB > or = 20 mg/dl using abnormal muscle tone on examination, auditory testing diagnostic of AN/AD, and magnetic resonance imaging showing bilateral lesions of globus pallidus+/-subthalamic nucleus.