We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine whether similar brain regions activate during noxious hot and cold stimulation. Six male subjects underwent whole brain fMRI during phasic delivery of noxious hot (46 degrees C) and noxious cold (5 degrees C) stimulation to the dorsum of the left hand. Mid-brain regions activated included thalamus, basal ganglia and insula. Cortical areas activated included cingulate, somatosensory, premotor and motor cortices, as well as prefrontal and inferior parietal cortex. Most regions activated bilaterally but with stronger activation contralateral to the stimulus. Noxious cold stimulation produced significantly increased volumes of activation compared to noxious heat in prefrontal areas only. Our results suggest a similar network of regions activate common to the perception of pain produced by either noxious hot or cold stimulation.