Future application of fetal brain monitoring is explored by selecting and analysing articles for information on types of brain damage that can be monitored, where in the brain this can be done, how long after the risk exposure, and with what method of investigation. A limited number of-mainly-case histories reported that early (cell death and oedema) and late (gliosis) effects of brain damage can be demonstrated before birth with multiplanar ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging, and that hypoxic ischaemic injury or infection can induce local or widespread brain injury, occurring as transient or longer-lasting changes in age-related predilection areas for which normal features are known. The antenatal role of risk factors inducing abnormal brain development can be studied longitudinally with ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging. A multidisciplinary approach will facilitate the introduction of various techniques with adequate know-how of underlying processes, to evaluate the predictive value on neurological outcome and prevent premature introduction into clinical application. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.