This study explored the relationships between the motor and cognitive abilities, and the functional performance of patients with stroke. Motor and cognitive abilities were measured by the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) and the Neurobehavioural Cognitive Status Examination (NCSE), and functional performance was measured by the Functional Independence Measure (FIM). All assessments were conducted at admission, after 2 and 4 weeks, and at discharge. A total of 37 patients with first stroke at mean age 62.3 years (SD=5.4) participated in the study. Results indicated that the lower extremity and balance scores on the FMA were highly correlated with the FIM (motor subscale) on all occasions (r = 0.65-0.92), whereas upper extremity and hand scores on the FMA were moderately correlated (r = 0.53-0.73). Cognitive abilities such as judgement, comprehension and repetition had moderate positive relationships with functional performance (r = 0.35-0.62). Consistent with previous studies, motor functional performance at discharge was best predicted by balance and judgement abilities at admission, or lower extremity abilities and balance at 2-weeks, or lower extremity and repetition abilities at 4-weeks. At admission, lower extremity and cognitive abilities were found to be the best predictors of patients' length of stay. The results from this study substantiated the fact that motor impairment, including balance and lower limb ability, strongly accounts for functional recovery in the rehabilitation of patients with stroke staying in hospital. This study provided good data for rehabilitation professionals on monitoring neurological recovery, especially balance and lower extremity abilities, to enhance the functional recovery of patients after stroke. More intensive intervention in these aspects should be provided to patients to promote more efficient functional regain and shortening of the length of stay. Copyright © 2001 Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business.