Functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) can provide detailed images of human brain that reflect localized changes in cerebral blood flow and oxygenation induced by sensory, motor, or cognitive tasks. This review presents methods for gradient-recalled echo-planar functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI). Also included is a discussion of the hypothesized basis of FMRI, imaging hardware, a unique visual stimulation apparatus, image post-processing and statistical analysis. Retinotopic mapping of striate and extrastriate visual cortex is discussed as an example application. The described echo-planar technique permitted acquisition of an image in 40 ms with a repetition rate of up to 2 per second. However, FMRI responses are slow compared to changes in neural activity. Onset of a visual checkerboard test pattern evoked a response that was delayed by 1-2 s and reached 90% of peak in 5 s. Return to baseline following stimulation was slightly slower. Alternating control (blank) and test (checkerboard) patterns every 20 s induced a cyclic response that was detected in the presence of noise using a cross-correlation technique that was verified by parametric statistics. FMRI revealed retinotopically organized patterns of visually evoked activity in response to annular stimuli that increased in visual field eccentricity. Retinotopy was also observed with test patterns rotated around the fixation point (center of gaze). Results from repeated tests 1 week apart were highly similar. Compared to passive viewing, an active visual discrimination task enhanced responses from extrastriate association cortex.