Alterations in brain metabolism after ischemia and reperfusion are described herein. Several roles played by carnitine and acetylcarnitine can be of particular relevance in counteracting these brain metabolism alterations. The effects of acetylcarnitine in several experimental models of brain ischemia in rats are described. The data obtained show that acetylcarnitine can have significant clinical neuroprotective effects when administered shortly after the onset of focal or global cerebral ischemia. In the canine cardiac arrest model, acetylcarnitine improved the postischemic neurological outcome and tissue levels of lactate and pyruvate were normalized. A trend toward reversal of pyruvate dehydrogenase inhibition in acetylcarnitine-treated dogs was also observed. The immediate postischemic administration of acetylcarnitine prevents free radical-mediated protein oxidation in the frontal cortex of dogs submitted to cardiac arrest and resuscitation. The transfer of the acetyl group to coenzyme A (CoA) to form acetyl-CoA as the primary source of energy is a plausible mechanism of action of acetylcarnitine.