Globus pallidus involvement is a well-known magnetic resonance (MR) imaging finding of acute kernicterus. However, it is not clear how early the involvement of globus pallidus occurs and whether or not it is seen in every case. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the globus pallidus involvement in 13 neonates with acute kernicterus by MR imaging. Thirteen neonates who were admitted with jaundice, encephalopathy and indirect hyperbilirubinemia (mean, 37.0 mg/dl) were prospectively evaluated with cranial MR imaging. Pathological signal changes were noted concerning the globus pallidus. Eight of the 13 patients demonstrated bilateral, symmetric increased signal intensity in the globus pallidus on T1-weighted MR imaging. These lesions were not apparent on T2-weighted images. Multiple parenchymal punctuate T1 hyperintense lesions were detected in one patient without globus pallidus involvement. This appearance was consistent with hemorrhage. The MR imaging findings of the other four patients showed no evidence of abnormality. The symmetric involvement of globus pallidus seen as hyperintense on T1-weighted MR imaging is a common and characteristic finding of acute kernicterus.