We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) to study possible cerebral activation patterns associated with unilateral postural tremor in 12 patients with essential tremor (ET), with mimicked postural tremor in 15 control subjects, and with passive wrist oscillation in both groups. During essential tremor, patients showed mainly contralateral activation of the primary motor and primary sensory areas, the globus pallidus, and the thalamus, but bilateral activation of the nucleus dentatus, the cerebellar hemispheres, and the red nucleus. Only 2 patients presented with activity in the medulla close to the olivary nucleus. Unilateral passive wrist oscillation of ET patients resulted in only unilateral activation of the cerebellum, nuclei dentati, and red nuclei. In contrast to the involuntary tremor condition of ET patients, the mimicked tremor condition of the control subjects was not associated with bilateral activity in the cerebellum, nuclei dentati, or red nuclei. Involuntary tremor of ET patients was associated with a significantly larger extent of activation in the cerebellar hemispheres and the red nucleus (p < 0.003) compared with mimicked tremor in the control group. Our FMRI study indicates that ET is mainly associated with an additional contralateral cerebellar pathway activation and overactivity in the cerebellum, red nucleus, and globus pallidus without significant intrinsic olivary activation.