The local cerebral vascular response to hyperventilation was investigated in five distressed, intubated infants by means of a T2 sensitive gradient-echo MRI technique at 1.5 T. In one preterm infant, the MR signal change during hyperventilation was sparse. In four term infants, the mean MR signal of the brain slice investigated decreased by 1.2-2.6% per kPa change in PCO2 as a reflection of decreased cerebral blood flow during hyperventilation. Pixel-wise analysis revealed absence of vascular response in the basal ganglia, the thalamus or in the occipital region. In two adult controls, who hyperventilated voluntarily, the vascular reactivity was homogeneously distributed predominantly over the grey matter. The experiments demonstrate that local impairment of vascular CO2 reactivity in the distressed infant brain can be detected by T2 sensitive gradient-echo MRI, which is also known as functional MRI.