Several lines of evidence suggest that the supplementary motor area (SMA) and the premotor cortex (PM) may participate in neuronal mechanisms for the initiation of movements. We recorded the impulse activity of single neurons in monkeys that were trained in two behavioral tasks employing, respectively, self-initiated and externally timed movements. Neurons in both areas were activated up to 2.6 s in advance of self-initiated, reward-related arm reaching movements. In the externally timed task, changes occurred during light instructions that preceded movements by 2 s. Neurons also responded to the trigger stimulus for movement. In view of similar premovement activity in the basal ganglia, these cortical regions appear to be parts of a distributed neuronal system for movement initiation.