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In transition-band steady-state free precession (SSFP) functional MRI (fMRI), functional contrast originates from a bulk frequency shift induced by a deoxygenated hemoglobin concentration change in the activated brain regions. This frequency shift causes a magnitude and/or phase-signal change depending on the off-resonance distribution of a voxel in the balanced-SSFP (bSSFP) profile. However, in early low-resolution studies, only the magnitude signal activations were shown. In this paper the task-correlated phase-signal change is presented in a high-resolution (1 × 1 × 1 mm3) study. To include this phase activation in a functional analysis, a new complex domain data analysis method is proposed. The results show statistically significant phase-signal changes in a large number of voxels comparable to that of the magnitude-activated voxels. The complex-data analysis method successfully includes these phase activations in the activation map and thus provides wider coverage compared to magnitude-data analysis results. Magn Reson Med 57:905–917, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.