Age-related changes in glucose utilization through the TCA cycle were studied using [1-13C]glucose and 13C, 1H NMR spectroscopy on rat brain extracts. Significant increases in lactate levels, as well as in creatine/phosphocreatine ratios (Cr/PCr), and a decrease in N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) and aspartate levels were observed in aged rat brains as compared to adult animals following glucose administration. The total amount of 13C from [1-13C]glucose incorporated in glutamate, glutamine, aspartate and GABA was significantly decreased in control aged rat brains as compared to adult brains. The results showed a decrease in oxidative glucose utilization of control aged rat brains. The long-term nicergoline treatment increased NAA and glutamate levels, and decreased the lactate levels as well as the Cr/PCr ratios in aged rat brains as compared to adult rats. The total amount of 13C incorporated in glutamate, glutamine, aspartate, NAA and GABA was increased by nicergoline treatment, showing an improvement in oxidative glucose metabolism in aged brains. A significant increase in pyruvate carboxylase/pyruvate dehydrogenase activity (PC/PDH) in the synthesis of glutamate in nicergoline-treated aged rats is consistent with an increase in the transport of glutamine from glia to neurons for conversion into glutamate. In adult rat brains, no effect of nicergoline on glutamate PC/PDH activity was observed, although an increase in PC/PDH activity in glutamine was, suggesting that nicergoline affects the glutamate/glutamine cycle between neurons and glia in different ways depending on the age of animals. These results provide new insights into the effects of nicergoline on the CNS.