We used positron emission tomography (PET) to study organizational changes in the functional anatomy of the brain in 10 patients following recovery from striatocapsular motor strokes. Comparisons of regional cerebral blood flow maps at rest between the patients and 10 normal subjects revealed significantly lower regional cerebral blood flow in the basal ganglia, thalamus, sensorimotor, insular, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, in the brainstem, and in the ipsilateral cerebellum in patients, contralateral to the side of the recovered hand. These deficits reflect the distribution of dysfunction caused by the ischemic lesion. Regional cerebral blood flow was significantly increased in the contralateral posterior cingulate and premotor cortices, and in the caudate nucleus ipsilateral to the recovered hand. During the performance of a motor task by the recovered hand, patients activated the contralateral cortical motor areas and ipsilateral cerebellum to the same extent as did normal subjects. However, activation was greater than in normal subjects in both insulae; in the inferior parietal (area 40), prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices; in the ipsilateral premotor cortex and basal ganglia; and in the contralateral cerebellum. The pattern of cortical activation was also abnormal when the unaffected hand, contralateral to the hemiplegia, performed the task. We showed that bilateral activation of motor pathways and the recruitment of additional sensorimotor areas and of other specific cortical areas are associated with recovery from motor stroke due to striatocapsular infarction. Activation of anterior and posterior cingulate and prefrontal cortices suggests that selective attentional and intentional mechanisms may be important in the recovery process. Our findings suggest that there is considerable scope for functional plasticity in the adult human cerebral cortex.