Atrial fibrillation is an increasingly prevalent cardiovascular disease; changes in atrial structure and function induced by atrial fibrillation and its treatments are often spatially heterogeneous. However, spatial heterogeneity of function is difficult to assess with standard imaging techniques. This paper describes a method to assess global and regional mechanical function by combining cardiac magnetic resonance imaging and finite-element surface fitting. We used this fitted surface to derive measures of left atrial volume, regional motion, and spatial heterogeneity of motion in 23 subjects, including healthy volunteers and atrial fibrillation patients. We fit the surfaces using a Newton optimization scheme in under 1 min on a standard laptop, with a root mean square error of 2.3 ± 0.5 mm, less than 9% of the mean fitted radius, and an inter-operator variability of less than 10%. Fitted surfaces showed clear definition of the phases of left atrial motion (filling, passive emptying, active contraction) in both volume-time and regional radius-time curves. Averaged surfaces of healthy volunteers and atrial fibrillation patients provided evidence of substantial regional variation in both amount and timing of regional motion, indicating spatial heterogeneity of function, even in healthy adults. © 1982-2012 IEEE.