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Fueling and imaging brain activation

Author(s): Gerald A Dienel

Journal: ASN Neuro
ISSN 1759-0914

Volume: 4;
Issue: 5;
Start page: e00093;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: astrocyte | gap junction | glucose | lactate | metabolism | neuron

Metabolic signals are used for imaging and spectroscopic studies of brain function and disease and to elucidate the cellular basis of neuroenergetics. The major fuel for activated neurons and the models for neuron–astrocyte interactions have been controversial because discordant results are obtained in different experimental systems, some of which do not correspond to adult brain. In rats, the infrastructure to support the high energetic demands of adult brain is acquired during postnatal development and matures after weaning. The brain's capacity to supply and metabolize glucose and oxygen exceeds demand over a wide range of rates, and the hyperaemic response to functional activation is rapid. Oxidative metabolism provides most ATP, but glycolysis is frequently preferentially up-regulated during activation. Underestimation of glucose utilization rates with labelled glucose arises from increased lactate production, lactate diffusion via transporters and astrocytic gap junctions, and lactate release to blood and perivascular drainage. Increased pentose shunt pathway flux also causes label loss from C1 of glucose. Glucose analogues are used to assay cellular activities, but interpretation of results is uncertain due to insufficient characterization of transport and phosphorylation kinetics. Brain activation in subjects with low blood-lactate levels causes a brain-to-blood lactate gradient, with rapid lactate release. In contrast, lactate flooding of brain during physical activity or infusion provides an opportunistic, supplemental fuel. Available evidence indicates that lactate shuttling coupled to its local oxidation during activation is a small fraction of glucose oxidation. Developmental, experimental, and physiological context is critical for interpretation of metabolic studies in terms of theoretical models.

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