Motor training consisting of voluntary movements leads to performance improvements and results in characteristic reorganizational changes in the motor cortex. It has been proposed that repetition of passively elicited movements could also lead to improvements in motor performance. In this study, we compared behavioural gains, changes in functional MRI (fMRI) activation in the contralateral primary motor cortex (cM1) and in motor cortex excitability measured with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) after a 30 min training period of either voluntarily (active) or passively (passive) induced wrist movements, when alertness and kinematic aspects of training were controlled. During active training, subjects were instructed to perform voluntary wrist flexion-extension movements of a specified duration (target window 174-186 ms) in an articulated splint. Passive training consisted of wrist flexion- extension movements elicited by a torque motor, of the same amplitude and duration range as in the active task. fMRI activation and TMS parameters of motor cortex excitability were measured before and after each training type. Motor performance, measured as the number of movements that hit the target window duration, was significantly better after active than after passive training. Both active and passive movements performed during fMRI measurements activated cM1. Active training led to more prominent increases in (i) fMRI activation of cM1; (ii) recruitment curves (TMS); and (iii) intracortical facilitation (TMS) than passive training. Therefore, a short period of active motor training is more effective than passive motor training in eliciting performance improvements and cortical reorganization. This result is consistent with the concept of a pivotal role for voluntary drive in motor learning and neurorehabilitation.