Little is known about how ischemia affects hemodynamic responses to neural activation in the brain. We compare the effects of a motor activation task and a cerebral vasodilating agent, acetazolamide (ACZ), on regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in primary sensorimotor cortex (PSM) in six patients with major cerebral artery steno-occlusive lesions without paresis of the upper extremities. Quantitative rCBF was measured in all patients using H2(15)O autoradiographic method and positron emission tomography. The CBF was determined at rest, during a bimanual motor activation task, and 10 minutes after ACZ administration. With bimanual motor activation, rCBF increased significantly in both PSM compared with at rest (P < 0.01 on lesion side, and P < 0.02 on contralateral side). However, rCBF did not increase after ACZ injection in the PSM on the lesion side, whereas rCBF increased significantly in the contralateral PSM after ACZ injection compared with the level at rest. This result suggests that despite a decreased hemodynamic reserve, there is a nearly normal flow response to neural activation, indicating that the mechanism of vasodilation responsible for perfusion change is different for acetazolamide and neural activation. The relations among neural activation, hemodynamic status, and cerebral metabolism in the ischemic stroke patients are discussed.