I. Previous studies in man have revealed a coupling between the regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) and the regional cerebral metabolic rate for oxygen. In normal man, increases in the regional cerebral metabolic rate for oxygen leads to proportional increases in the rCBF (34). We have measured the rCBF as an expression of the level of cortical activity simultaneously from 254 cortical regions in 28 patients with no major neurological defects, during rest and during planning and execution of a few types of learned voluntary movements with the hand. 2. We found that the rCBF increases exclusively in the supplementary motor area while subjects were programming a sequence of fast isolated movements of individual fingers, without actually executing it. 3. During execution of the same motor sequence, there were equivalent increases of the rCBF in both supplementary motor areas, but only in the contralateral primary motor area. In addition, there were more modest rCBF increases in the contralateral sensory hand area, the convexity part of the premotor area, and bilaterally in the inferior frontal region. 4. Repetitive fast flexions of the same finger or a sustained isometric muscular contraction raise the blood flow in the contralateral primary motor and sensory hand area. 5. A pure somatosensory discrimination of the shapes of objects, without any concomitant voluntary movements, also leaves the supplementary motor areas silent. 6. We conclude that the primary motor area and the part of the motor system it projects to by itself can control ongoing simple ballistic movements with the selfsame body part. A sequence of different isolated finger movements requires programming in the supplementary motor areas. We suggest that the supplementary motor areas are programming areas for motor subroutines and that these areas form a queue of time-ordered motor commands before voluntary movements are executed by way of the primary motor area.