Proton MR spectra of the basal ganglia were obtained from 28 patients, 24 male and 14 female, median age 16.3 months (5 weeks to 31 years). They included 17 patients with normal MRI of the basal ganglia without metabolic disturbance (control group) and 11 patients with various metabolic diseases: one case each of high serum sodium and high serum osmolarity, cobalamin C deficiency, Leigh disease, Galloway-Mowat syndrome, Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, hemolytic-uremic syndrome and Wilson disease and two cases of Alagille syndrome and methylmalonic acidemia with abnormal MRI of the basal ganglia or blood or urine analysis (abnormal group). The MR spectrum was measured by using STEAM. The MR-visible water content of the region of interest was obtained. Levels of myoinositol, choline, creatine and N-acetylaspartate were measured using a semiquantitative approach, with absolute reference calibration. In the control group, there was a gradual drop of water content over the first year of life; N-acetylaspartate, creatine and myoinositol levels showed no significant change with age, in contrast to the occipital, parietal and cerebellar regions. Choline showed a gradual decrease for the first 2 years of life and then remained fairly constant. In the abnormal group the water content was not significantly different. N-Acetylaspartate was decreased in patients with high serum sodium and high serum osmolarity, cobalamin C deficiency, Leigh disease and one case of methylmalonic acidemia. Decreased creatine was also found in Leigh disease, and decreased choline in Galloway-Mowat syndrome and Wilson disease. Myoinositol was elevated in the patient with abnormally high serum sodium, and decreased in the hemolytic-uremic syndrome.