We examined long-term reproducibility of the functional organization of the brain associated with a simple finger tapping movement using positron emission tomography (PET). Repeat measurements of regional cerebral blood flow were obtained in 10 individuals, ages 35 to 82 years (mean 52 years), at scanning sessions separated by 6 months. Although the functional neuroanatomy of hand movements has previously been investigated with PET by a number of groups, none has reported systematic investigation of the consistency of brain activation over an extended time. As expected, we found significant activation in the left precentral gyrus [Talairach coordinate (-32, -34, 52)], postcentral gyrus (-22, -48, 56), and supplementary motor area (SMA) (- 2, -18, 52) at the initial study, consistent with previous studies in younger subjects. For the follow-up study we also found significant activation in the left precentral (-36, -28, 52) and postcentral (-28, -36, 52) gyri and in the SMA (2, -16, 56). Our group results demonstrate consistent anatomical location and extent of motor activation over time. More importantly, analysis of individuals confirmed the presence of consistent sites of activation in primary sensorimotor cortex and SMA over the 6-month interval in most subjects. A high degree of consistency in location of activation in the group, and within individuals, over time suggests that changes in loci of activation may be confidently monitored using the PET method. Evidence of individual differences in extent of activation over time highlights the need for caution when interpreting similar changes in patient studies. (C) 2000 Academic Press.