Focal lesions were demonstrated on magnetic resonance (MR) imaging in eight patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and recent onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms. Corresponding findings were visible in only two of seven patients who had computed tomographic (CT) scans. Three patterns of disease were observed on MR when it was performed with a pulse repetition rate of 2000 msec. The first pattern was that of cerebral infarction, with a relatively large area of increased intensity. The second pattern, multiple small areas of increased intensity, may have been secondary to microinfarctions. The third pattern was that of focal areas of increased intensity, predominantly in the cerebral gray matter. In two of three patients with the third pattern, partial or complete resolution was observed on follow-up MR images obtained several weeks after the initial studies.