Tone recognition is partially subserved by neural activity in the right frontal and primary auditory cortices. First we determined the brain areas associated with tone perception and recognition. This study then examined how regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in these and other brain regions correlates with the behavioral characteristics of a difficult tone recognition task. rCBF changes were assessed using H2(15)O positron emission tomography. Subtraction procedures were used to localize significant change regions and correlational analyses were applied to determine how response times (RT) predicted rCBF patterns. Twelve trained normal volunteers were studied in three conditions: REST, sensory motor control (SMC) and decision (DEC). The SMC-REST contrast revealed bilateral activation of primary auditory cortices, cerebellum and bilateral inferior frontal gyri. DEC-SMC produced significant clusters in the right middle and inferior frontal gyri, insula and claustrum; the anterior cingulate gyrus and supplementary motor area; the left insula/claustrum; and the left cerebellum. Correlational analyses, RT versus rCBF from DEC scans, showed a positive correlation in right inferior and middle frontal cortex; rCBF in bilateral auditory cortices and cerebellum exhibited significant negative correlations with RT These changes suggest that neural activity in the right frontal, superior temporal and cerebellar regions shifts back and forth in magnitude depending on whether tone recognition RT is relatively fast or slow, during a difficult, accurate assessment.