OBJECT The aim of this study was to evaluate different types of sensory stimulation used to distinguish between microvasculature and venous drainage on functional magnetic resonance (fMR) images with blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) contrast. METHODS Seven volunteers received three sensory stimulations. One consisted of small discontinuous automated pokes to the ventral aspect of the right thumbtip. The other two were delivered by the investigator, who vigorously brushed the ventral aspect of the right thumbtip either alone or in combination with the thenar region. Seven contiguous axial slices of the head were acquired using echoplanar fMR imaging during each mode of stimulation. Boxcar analysis and Student's t-test were performed. Cluster analysis was used to determine significant differences between rest and activation phases. The major findings were 1) that a discontinuous sensory stimulation involving a small skin area was able to evoke a limited activated area in the postcentral gyrus with a low activation index (AI [2%]); 2) that this limited activated area was included in the activated area elicited by the continuous sensory stimulations; and 3) that this also evoked multiple activated areas exhibiting AIs of either approximately 2% or greater than 5%. This indicated that the limited discontinuous tactile stimulation evoked a BOLD-contrast fMR image essentially of microvasculature, whereas the more extensive continuous stimulations evoked a BOLD-contrast fMR image in both microvasculature and venous drainage. CONCLUSIONS Different sensory stimulations are necessary to differentiate primary sensory cortex from venous drainage for presurgical brain mapping.