Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, correlated with anatomic sections, was used to characterize the progressive and regressive changes in the nucleus pulposus in neonates. The spines of five fetuses and five full-term infants between 16 and 40 weeks old were studied. In anatomic sections, the nucleus pulposus was sharply demarcated from the anulus fibrosus, Sharpey fibers were conspicuous, and a plate of primitive notochord was evident in the equator of the disk. On long repetition time (TR)/long echo time (TE) or long TR/short TE MR images, Sharpey fibers (low signal intensity) and notochord (low signal intensity) could be differentiated from the high-signal-intensity nucleus pulposus and anulus fibrosus. The major differences between the fetal and infant spines were the amount of notochord in the disk and ossification in the vertebral body.