Ten patients with Japanese encephalitis diagnosed by serological criteria underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in axial and coronal sections. In 6, a second MRI study was done. The MRI findings were compared with the clinical outcome. Four patients died within several months of onset, 2 had sequelae such as hemiparesis and dementia, and the remaining 4 had no sequelae. In 9 of 10 patients, either diffuse or patchy white matter lesions were observed bilaterally, together with abnormalities in areas such as the thalamus, basal ganglia, and brainstem. For 3 patients who died or remained demented, the second MRI revealed extensive, diffuse white matter abnormalities. This study indicates that Japanese encephalitis can produce white matter involvement, although gray matter structures such as the thalamus, basal ganglia, and brainstem are more severely affected. The severity of these MRI lesions correlated with the clinical outcome.