In this paper we present a multivariate analysis of evoked hemodynamic responses and their spatiotemporal dynamics as measured with fast fMRI. This analysis uses standard multivariate statistics (MANCOVA) and the general linear model to make inferences about effects of interest and canonical variates analysis (CVA) to describe the important features of these effects. We have used these techniques to characterize the form of hemodynamic transients that are evoked during a cognitive or sensorimotor task. In particular we do not assume that the neural or hemodynamic response reaches some "steady state" but acknowledge that these physiological changes could show profound task-dependent adaptation and time-dependent changes during the task. To address this issue we have modeled hemodynamic responses using appropriate temporal basis functions and estimated their exact form within the general linear model using MANCOVA. We do not propose that this analysis is a particularly powerful way to make inferences about functional specialization (or more generally functional anatomy) because it only provides statistical inferences about the distributed (whole brain) responses evoked by different conditions. However, its application to characterizing the temporal aspects of evoked hemodynamic responses reveals some compelling and somewhat unexpected perspectives on transient but stereotyped responses to changes in cognitive or sensorimotor processing. The most remarkable observation is that these responses can be biphasic and show profound differences in their form depending on the extant task or condition. Furthermore these differences can be seen in the absence of changes in mean signal.