Psychiatric neuroimaging techniques are likely to improve understanding of the brain in health and disease, but studies tend to be small, based in one imaging centre and of unclear generalisability. Multicentre studies have great appeal but face problems if functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from different centres are to be combined. Fourteen healthy volunteers had two brain scans on different days at three scanners. Considerable effort was first made to use similar scanning sequences and standardise task implementation across centres. The n-back cognitive task was used to investigate between- and within-scanner reproducibility and reliability. Both the functional imaging and behavioural results were in good accord with the existing literature. We found no significant differences in the activation/deactivation maps between scanners, or between repeat visits to the same scanners. Between- and within-scanner reproducibility and reliability was very similar. However, the smoothness of images from the scanners differed, suggesting that smoothness equalization might further reduce inter-scanner variability. Our results for the n-back task suggest it is possible to acquire fMRI data from different scanners which allows pooling across centres, when the same field strength scanners are used and scanning sequences and paradigm implementations are standardised. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.