Regional aerobic glycolysis in the human brain

S. Neil Vaishnavi, Andrei G. Vlassenko, Melissa M. Rundle, Abraham Z. Snyder, Mark A. Mintun, Marcus E. Raichle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

420 Scopus citations


Aerobic glycolysis is defined as glucose utilization in excess of that used for oxidative phosphorylation despite sufficient oxygen to completely metabolize glucose to carbon dioxide and water. Aerobic glycolysis is present in the normal human brain at rest and increases locally during increased neuronal activity; yet its many biological functions have received scant attention because of a prevailing energy-centric focus on the role of glucose as substrate for oxidative phosphorylation. As an initial step in redressing this neglect, we measured the regional distribution of aerobic glycolysis with positron emission tomography in 33 neurologically normal young adults at rest. We show that the distribution of aerobic glycolysis in the brain is differentially present in previously well-described functional areas. In particular, aerobic glycolysis is significantly elevated in medial and lateral parietal and prefrontal cortices. In contrast, the cerebellum and medial temporal lobes have levels of aerobic glycolysis significantly below the brain mean. The levels of aerobic glycolysis are not strictly related to the levels of brain energy metabolism. For example, sensory cortices exhibit high metabolic rates for glucose and oxygen consumption but low rates of aerobic glycolysis. These striking regional variations in aerobic glycolysis in the normal human brain provide an opportunity to explore how brain systems differentially use the diverse cell biology of glucose in support of their functional specializations in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17757-17762
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 12 2010


  • Blood flow
  • Glucose consumption
  • Metabolism
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Positron emission tomography


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