Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to characterize patterns of cortical activation in response to sensory and motor tasks in patients with writer's cramp. 17 patients and 17 healthy subjects were examined during finger-tapping, index finger flexion, and electrical median nerve stimulation of both hands during electromyographic monitoring. SPM2 was used to evaluate Brodmann area (BA) 4, 1, 2, 3, 6, 40. Patients showed decreased activation in the left BA 4 with motor tasks of both hands and the left BA 1-3 with right finger-tapping. With left finger-tapping there was bilateral underactivation of single areas of the somatosensory cortex. Patients exhibited decreased activation in the bilateral BA 6 with left motor tasks and in the right BA 6 with right finger-tapping. Patients had decreased activation in bilateral BA 40 with finger-tapping of both hands. The findings suggest decreased baseline activity or an impaired activation in response to motor tasks in BA 1-4, 6, 40 in patients with writer's cramp for the dystonic and the clinically unaffected hand.