Comparison of the spatial and temporal information retrieved from near-infrared phase and average intensity (DC) data reveals that these data types can play a complementary role in the study of the temporal and spatial features of the optical response associated with brain activation during a finger-tapping test. The optical data have been collected with a frequency-domain tissue imager at two wavelengths (690 and 830 nm) and have been analyzed using standard filtering and folding-average procedures. DC and phase data show different temporal and spatial features. A plausible explanation of the different behavior of DC and phase data has been attempted by using Monte Carlo simulations.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.