The purpose of this study is to examine the pattern of mesial temporal lobe activity in patients with left mesial temporal sclerosis (LMTS) and normal control subjects during a verbal memory task using magnetoencephalography. Six LMTS patients and seven normal control subjects performed a word recognition task while event-related neuromagnetic responses were recorded for 248 trials in each of two runs. An equivalent current dipole model was used to localize activity sources and determine if the right or left mesial temporal lobe was active. All six (100%) LMTS patients but only two (28%) normal control subjects had right mesial temporal activity (P < 0.02). Two (33%) LMTS patients and 6 (86%) normal control subjects had left mesial temporal activity (P = 0.27). No significant differences in latency or duration of activity were seen between left and right sides or between groups. Our data suggest that patients with left hippocampal dysfunction are more likely to recruit the right mesial temporal lobe during verbal memory tasks than normal control subjects. A trend toward less left mesial temporal activity in LMTS patients is seen as well. Further study is needed to determine the predictive value of this technique regarding postresection memory outcome.