Focal dystonias such as writer's cramp are characterized by muscular cramps that accompany the execution of specific motor tasks. Until now, the pathophysiology of focal dystonia remains incompletely understood. Recent studies suggest that the development of writer's cramp is related to abnormal organization of primary somatosensory cortex (SI), which in turn leads to impaired motor function. To explore contributions of SI on mechanisms of task specificity in focal dystonia, we investigated dynamic alterations in the functional organization of SI as well as sensory-motor gating for rest, left- and right-handed writing and brushing in writer's cramp patients and healthy controls. The functional organization of somatosensory cortex was assessed by neuromagnetic source imaging (151 channel whole-head MEG). In accordance with previous reports, distances between cortical representations of thumb and little finger of the affected hand were smaller in patients compared to healthy subjects. However. similar to healthy controls, patients showed normal modulation of the functional organization of SI as induced by the execution of different motor tasks. Both in the control subjects and patients, cortical distances between representations of thumb and little finger increased when writing and brushing compared to the resting condition. Although, cramps only occured during writing, no differences in the organization of SI were seen among motor tasks. Our data suggest that despite alterations in the organization of primary somatosensory cortex in writer's cramp, the capability of SI to adapt dynamically to different tasks is not impaired. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All fights reserved.