We have applied an atomistic simulation methodology based on molecular dynamics to study grain boundary migration in crystalline materials, driven by the excess energy of dislocation arrangements. This method is used to simulate recrystallization in metals. The simulations reveal that the migration process is not uniform as assumed in many recrystallization models, but that the grain boundaries migrate in an irregular fashion and exhibit a strong dependence on the local presence of dislocations, which can distort the local migration process significantly. (c) 2007 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.