Abnormal focal slow wave activity on electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography (MEG) is often seen in patients with various brain pathologies and MEG is capable of localizing cortical oscillatory activity with enhanced accuracy. In addition, MEG with synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM) can depict changes in cortical oscillatory activity tomographically. Using SAM, we recorded cortical rhythms in patients with a brain tumor and evaluated the tomographic appearance of focal slow wave activity in relation to clinical signs and symptoms. Spontaneous MEG recordings were obtained in 15 patients with brain tumors. Statistically-determined power distributions in the delta-, theta-, and alpha-frequency bands were displayed tomographically and overlaid on individual magnetic resonance images. The location, strength and volume of enhanced activity were analyzed. Delta and theta band activities were significantly more intense in the cortex adjacent to tumors and in the surrounding edematous cortical areas than in other portions of the cortex. In 13 of the 15 patients, spatial distribution of enhanced focal delta activity coincided with the area responsible for the presenting signs and symptoms. Volumetric analysis revealed that emergence of tumor-related focal delta band activity in the cortex adjacent to a tumor, or with peritumoral edema, was greater for intra-axial tumors involving subcortical fibers than for extra-axial tumors. Patients with an increased volume of enhanced delta activity exhibited poor recovery of function in the early postoperative period. It is concluded that SAM imaging of focal delta activity can reveal functional alterations in cortical activity in patients with brain tumors and is useful for assessing cortical states associated with the existing pathology.