We demonstrate the utility of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) as a tool for physicians to study cortical plasticity in children with cerebral palsy (CP). Motor cortex activation patterns were studied in five healthy children and five children with CP ( old in both groups) performing a finger-tapping protocol. Spatial (distance from center and area difference) and temporal (duration and time-to-peak) image metrics are proposed as potential biomarkers for differentiating abnormal cortical activation in children with CP from healthy pediatric controls. In addition, a similarity image-analysis concept is presented that unveils areas that have similar activation patterns as that of the maximum activation area, but are not discernible by visual inspection of standard activation images. Metrics derived from the images presenting areas of similarity are shown to be sensitive identifiers of abnormal activation patterns in children with CP. Importantly, the proposed similarity concept and related metrics may be applicable to other studies for the identification of cortical activation patterns by fNIRS.