Abstract Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can modulate motor cortex excitability in the human brain. We attempted to demonstrate the cortical stimulation effect of tDCS on the primary motor cortex (M1) using functional MRI (fMRI). An fMRI study was performed for 11 right-handed healthy subjects at 1.5 T. Anodal tDCS was applied to the scalp over the central knob of the M1 in the left hemisphere. A constant current with an intensity of 1.0 mA was applied. The total fMRI paradigm consisted of three sessions with a 5-min resting period between each session. Each session consisted of five successive phases (resting–tDCS–tDCS–tDCS–tDCS), and each of the phases was performed for 21 s. Our findings revealed that no cortical activation was detected in any of the stimulation phases except the fourth tDCS phase. In the result of group analysis for the fourth tDCS phase, the average map indicated that the central knob of the left primary motor cortex was activated. In addition, there were activations on the left supplementary motor cortex and the right posterior parietal cortex. We demonstrated that tDCS has a direct stimulation effect on the underlying cortex. It seems that tDCS is a useful modality for stimulating a target cortical region.