Previous studies have demonstrated that magnesium sulfate has cytoprotective properties for treating experimental rat brain injuries. The aim of this study is to evaluate changes in energy-related metabolites and glutamate in the cortex of gerbils subjected to focal cerebral ischemia with the pretreatment of magnesium sulfate. The focal cerebral ischemia was produced by the occlusion of the right common carotid artery and the right middle cerebral artery for 60 mins. A significant decrease in infarct size was found in the magnesium sulfate treated group when compared to the controls. Two microdialysis probes were inserted bilaterally into the cortex to monitor extracellular glucose, lactate, pyruvate and glutamate during cerebral ischemia and reperfusion periods. The present study showed a dynamic decrease of glucose (10% of the baseline), pyruvate (15% of the baseline), and an increase of lactate (200% of the baseline) and glutamate (1400% of the baseline) on the ipsilateral side during ischemia in the control group. Magnesium sulfate significantly preserved glucose (up to 50% of the baseline) and pyruvate (70% of the baseline) levels in the ipsilateral side during ischemia. There was significant attenuation in the elevation of glutamate and lactate (500% and 150% of the baseline, respectively) when treatments of magnesium sulfate were administered. No significant influence on these neurochemicals in the contralateral side was observed in either group. These results suggest that both the preservation of cellular energy metabolism, and the attenuation of glutamate release during cerebral ischemia and after restoration of reperfusion may contribute to the neuroprotective effects of magnesium sulfate.