Cognitive tasks often involve at least two types of processes - sustained processes potentially related to ongoing task demands and transient processes related to the processing of individual items within the task. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, in conjunction with a mixed-blocked and event-related design, we examined sustained and transient patterns of neural activity during an object-naming task. Subjects were imaged during runs that alternated between control blocks and task blocks. During task blocks, primed and unprimed objects were intermixed and jittered in time. Regions of interest based on separate analyses of sustained and transient activities were tested independently for sustained and transient responses. Three general patterns of results were observed. (1) Some regions exhibited transient responses but little or no sustained response. These regions were widely distributed across the brain. (2) Other regions clearly exhibited both transient and sustained responses. These regions were found primarily in lateral and medial frontal lobes. (3) A few regions exhibited a sustained response but little or no transient responses. These regions were found in the basal ganglia, orbitofrontal lobe, and right lateral frontal lobe. Furthermore, two homotopic regional pairs in the right and left inferior frontal lobe (frontal operculum and inferior frontal cortex) showed a crossover of sustained and transient effects, with greater transient activity in the left and greater sustained activity in the right hemisphere. The asymmetric relationship between sustained and transient responses in prefrontal regions may be an example of task-specific biasing at work.