Patients with childhood-onset growth hormone (GH) deficiency (GHD) show impairments in mood and cognitive functioning which may resolve following GH substitution. Brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of a memory task was used to assess the cerebral activity of such patients. Thirteen childhood-onset GHD patients (mean age 27.3 +/- 6.9 years) were included in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The effects of 6 months of GH replacement or placebo therapy were studied using neuropsychological tests and fMRI. One patient was excluded from the study due to noncompliance with the protocol. Six months of GH substitution in these GHD patients resulted in improved memory functioning, both for long-term and working memory. fMRI showed activations during the working memory task in prefrontal, parietal, motor, and occipital cortices, as well as in the right thalamus and anterior cingulate cortex. Decreased activation in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was observed after GH treatment as compared with placebo treatment, indicating decreased effort and more efficient recruitment of the neural system involved. It can be concluded that GH treatment for 6 months improved the long-term as well as the working memory in patients with GHD, and this was associated with decreased brain activation in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. GH substitution in GHD patients is beneficial for cognitive functioning, the effects of which can be visualized by means of neuroimaging.