Despite early diagnosis, one-third of Amish infants with glutaryl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (GA1) develop striatal lesions that leave them permanently disabled. To better understand mechanisms of striatal degeneration, we retrospectively studied imaging results from 25 Amish GA1 patients homozygous for 1296C>T mutations in GCDH. Asymptomatic infants had reduced glucose tracer uptake and increased blood volume throughout gray matter, which may signify a predisposition to brain injury. Nine children (36%) developed striatal lesions: three had sudden motor regression during infancy whereas six had insidious motor delay associated with striatal lesions of undetermined onset. Acute striatal necrosis consisted of three stages: (1) an acute stage, within 24 h of motor regression, characterized by cytotoxic oedema within the basal ganglia, cerebral oligemia, and rapid transit of blood throughout gray matter; (2) a sub-acute stage, 4–5 days after the onset of clinical signs, characterized by reduced striatal perfusion and glucose uptake, and supervening vasogenic oedema; and (3) a chronic stage of striatal atrophy. Apparent diffusion coefficient maps revealed that at least two of the six patients with insidious motor delay suffered striatal injuries before or shortly after birth, followed by latent periods of several months before disability was apparent. Thus, acute and insidious presentations may occur by similar mechanisms, and differ only with regard to the timing of injury. Intravenous fluid and dextrose therapy for illnesses during the first 2 years of life was the only intervention that was clearly neuroprotective in this cohort (odds ratio for brain injury = 0.04, 95% confidence interval = 0.01–0.34; P < 0.001).