Magnetoencephalographic source localisation techniques were used to measure oesophageal evoked magnetic fields from the cerebral cortex in 3 subjects. By using rapid balloon distension as a stimulus, a comparison of proximal and distal oesophageal cortical representation was made. The distal oesophagus was represented bilaterally in the insular cortex and SII as well as the inferior aspect of SI. The proximal oesophagus was represented unilaterally in superior and inferior SI, insular cortex and SII. Significantly, the superior portion of SI was consistently activated in subjects following stimulation of the proximal oesophagus, but similar activation was not found in response to distal stimulation. This may reflect the contribution from somatic afferent fibres in the striate muscle of the proximal segment. In conclusion, vagal afferents appear to contribute more to cortical activation following stimulation of the distal rather than the proximal oesophagus, while spinal afferents appear to be activated by both proximal and distal oesophageal stimulation.