Deep brain stimulation (DBS) relieves disabling symptoms of neurologic and psychiatric diseases when medical treatments fail, yet its therapeutic mechanism is unknown. We hypothesized that ventral intermediate (VIM) nucleus stimulation for essential tremor activates the cortex at short latencies, and that this potential is related to the suppression of tremor in the contralateral arm. We measured cortical activity with electroencephalography in 5 subjects (seven brain hemispheres) across a range of stimulator settings, and reversal of the anode and cathode electrode contacts minimized the stimulus artifact, allowing visualization of brain activity. Regression quantified the relationship between stimulation parameters and both the peak of the short latency potential and tremor suppression. Stimulation generated a polyphasic event-related potential in the ipsilateral sensorimotor cortex, with peaks at discrete latencies beginning less than 1 ms after stimulus onset (mean latencies 0.9 ± 0.2, 5.6 ± 0.7, and 13.9 ± 1.4 ms, denoted R1, R2, and R3, respectively). R1 showed more fixed timing than the subsequent peaks in the response (P < 0.0001, Levene's test), and R1 amplitude and frequency were both closely associated with tremor suppression (P < 0.0001, respectively). These findings demonstrate that effective VIM thalamic stimulation for essential tremor activates the cerebral cortex at approximately 1 ms after the stimulus pulse. The association between this short latency potential and tremor suppression suggests that DBS may improve tremor by synchronizing the precise timing of discharges in nearby axons and, by extension, the distributed motor network to the stimulation frequency or one of its subharmonics. © 2012 Movement Disorder Society.