Perfusion is a crucial physiological parameter for tissue function. To obtain perfusion-weighted images and consequently to measure cerebral blood flow (CBF), a newly developed flow-sensitive alternating inversion recovery (FAIR) technique was used. Dependency of FAIR signal on inversion times (TI) was examined; signal is predominantly located in large vessels at short TI, whereas it is diffused into gray matter areas at longer TI. CBF of gray matter areas in the human brain is 71 +/- 15 SD ml/100 g/min (n = 6). In fMRI studies, micro- and macrovessel inflow contributions can be obtained by adjusting TIs. Signal changes in large vessel areas including the scalp were seen during finger opposition at a TI of 0.4 s; however, these were not observed at a longer TI of 1.4 s. To compare with commonly used BOLD and slice selective inversion recovery techniques, FAIR and BOLD images were acquired at the same time during unilateral finger opposition. Generally, activation sites determined by three techniques are consistent. However, activation of some areas can be detected only by FAIR, not by BOLD, suggesting that the oxygen consumption increase couples with the CBF change completely. Relative and absolute CBF changes in the contralateral motor cortex are 53 +/- 17% SD (n = 9) and 27 +/- 11 SD ml/100 g/min (n = 9), respectively.