AIMS To determine the correlation between amplitude-integrated electroencephalogram (aEEG) background pattern and cerebral magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in infants with hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE) and to examine whether the correlation changes with therapeutic hypothermia. METHODS We included 38 term-born infants with HIE of whom 17 were cooled. All were continuously monitored with aEEG. Background pattern was scored at the beginning and the end of the recording. Cerebral MRI was obtained on median day 5 (2-11 days). Abnormalities were classified using a predefined scoring system for basal ganglia, watershed and overall injury, and then grouped into mild-moderate and severe. RESULTS Abnormal aEEG background pattern correlated with more severe cerebral injury on MRI in the non-cooled infants (P < 0.01). In addition, cooled infants had less severe cerebral injury than non-cooled infants, in particular on T2-weighted images (watershed P = 0.04 and total injury score = 0.07). CONCLUSIONS Abnormal aEEG background pattern is predictive of abnormal MRI, but therapeutic hypothermia seems to reduce this association. Thus, when cooling is applied in a clinical setting, the predictive value of aEEG may be limited.