This study investigated the functional neuroanatomy involved in retrieval of structured versus unstructured verbal information. We compared cerebral blood flow using PET with the [15O]water method while subjects engaged in recall of novel and practised narratives and lists of unrelated words. Left orbital frontal cortex was activated during recall of both novel and practised unrelated words. Right parietal cortex was relatively more active during recall of the novel word list. Right orbital frontal cortex and anterior cingulate were relatively more active during recall of the practised but not the novel word list. These results are consistent with the role of left orbital frontal cortex in retrieval of unstructured verbal information. Right orbital frontal activity suggests that cognitive strategies may be involved in retrieval of well-practised words.