Infant monkeys were subjected to unilateral lesions of the motor cortex (mainly its hand representation). After maturation, they showed normal use of the contralateral hand for global grip movements. However, as compared with the ipsilateral hand, precision grip tasks requiring relatively independent finger movements were performed with less dexterity, particularly if adjustments of the wrist position were necessary. The purpose of this study was to investigate mechanisms which may be responsible for the rather well, although not complete, preservation of manipulative behaviour of these adult monkeys. To this end, the hand representations were mapped bilaterally with intracortical microstimulation in the mature monkeys, and the dexterity of both hands assessed quantitatively in a precision grip task. The behavioural effects of reversible inactivations of the primary (M1) and supplementary (SMA) motor cortical areas were then tested. The following were found. (i) The hand contralateral to the lesion exhibited subtle but significant dexterity deficits, as compared with the ipsilateral hand; the deficit was essentially for complex movements requiring dissociation of the thumb–index finger pinch from the other digits, involving also an arm rotation. (ii) Reversible inactivation of the M1 hand representation in the intact hemisphere dramatically impaired dexterity of the opposite hand without affecting the ipsilateral hand (contralateral to the early lesion). (iii) A relatively complete hand representation was found to occupy a new territory, medial to the old lesion. (iv) The role of this new displaced representation was crucial for the preserved dexterity of the opposite hand, as evidenced by its functional inactivation. In contrast, inactivation of both SMA cortices did not interfere with the manipulative behaviour. It is thus concluded that the preserved functional capacity of manipulations with the hand opposite the early lesion can be essentially attributed to a cortical reorganization around the old lesion. Under the present experimental conditions, contributions from either the SMA or the intact M1 appear not to be crucial.