Diffusion fMRI (dfMRI) has been suggested as an alternative means for mapping activity more directly than its BOLD fMRI counterpart. However, it remains unclear whether dfMRI can deliver information not revealed by BOLD. Here, isotropic diffusion encoding dfMRI was used for mapping activity elicited by electrical forepaw stimulation. Data-driven analysis revealed that active voxels are localized within functionally distinct cortical units in dfMRI, while BOLD maps only evidenced widespread signals in the primary somatosensory cortex. Furthermore, dfMRI extracted the expected thalamocortical brain circuitry whereas BOLD fMRI did not, suggesting a potential role for dfMRI in direct detection of activity.