To establish a baseline of the magnetic resonance (MR) imaging appearance of the fetal brain in early stages of development, the authors undertook a study of fixed and fresh specimens of embryos and fetuses of 6-28 weeks gestational age. Images of formalin-preserved and fresh specimens were comparable in their depiction of anatomic structures. On MR images of embryos of 6 weeks gestational age, the rhombic and cervical flexures, aqueduct of Sylvius, diencephalon, cerebellum, cerebral hemisphere, and fourth ventricle could be differentiated. The optic recess and chiasm, pituitary gland, pineal recess, third ventricle, pons, olfactory lobe, corpus striatum, insula, and parietal and temporal lobes could be distinguished as early as 11 weeks gestation. Although MR imaging is impractical as a screening tool for intrauterine abnormalities, it can demonstrate the fetus in great detail and allows a more specific evaluation of fetal anatomy. With the information provided by MR imaging, it may be possible to establish guidelines for assessment of the stage of development during intrauterine life.