In traumatic brain injury (TBI) rapid deformation of brain tissue leads to axonal injury and cell death. In vivo quantification of such fast deformations is extremely difficult, but important for understanding the mechanisms of degeneration post-trauma and for development of numerical models of injury biomechanics. In this paper, strain fields in the brain of the perinatal rat were estimated from data obtained in vivo during rapid indentation. Tagged magnetic resonance (MR) images were obtained with high spatial (0.2 mm) and temporal (3.9 ms) resolution by gated image acquisition during and after impact. Impacts were repeated either 64 or 128 times to obtain images of horizontal and vertical tag lines in coronal and sagittal planes. Strain fields were estimated by harmonic phase (HARP) analysis of the tagged images. The original MR data was filtered and Fourier-transformed to obtain HARP images, following a method originally developed by Osman et al. (IEEE Trans. Med. Imaging 19(3) (2000) 186). The displacements of material points were estimated from intersections of HARP contours and used to generate estimates of the deformation gradient and Lagrangian strain tensors. Maximum principal Lagrangian strains of >0.20 at strain rates >40/s were observed during indentations of 2 mm depth and 21 ms duration.