Previous memory research has suggested that the effects of prior study observed in priming tasks are functionally, and neurobiologically, distinct phenomena from the kind of memory expressed in conventional (explicit) memory tests. Evidence for this position comes from observed dissociations between memory scores obtained with the two kinds of tasks. However, there is continuing controversy about the meaning of these dissociations. In recent studies, Ostergaard (1998a, Memory Cognit, 26:40-60; 1998b, J. Int. Neuropsychol. Soc., in press) showed that simply degrading visual word stimuli can dramatically alter the degree to which word priming shows a dissociation from word recognition; i.e., effects of a number of factors on priming paralleled their effects on recognition memory tests when the words were degraded at test. In the present study, cerebral blood flow changes were measured while subjects performed the word identification (reading) and recognition memory tasks used previously by Ostergaard. The results are the direct comparisons of the two tasks and the effects of stimulus degradation on blood flow patterns during the tasks. Clear differences between word identification and word recognition were observed: the latter task evoked considerably more prefrontal activity and stronger cerebellar activation. Stimulus degradation was associated with focal increases in bilateral fusiform regions within the occipital lobe. No task, degradation, or item repetition effects were demonstrated in mesial temporal regions, no repetition effects were observed in any region, and there was no evidence for different effects of stimulus degradation in the priming and recognition memory conditions. Power limitations may have contributed to the null effects.