Direct, noninvasive measurement of brain glycogen metabolism in humans

Neurochem Int. Sep-Oct 2003;43(4-5):323-9. doi: 10.1016/s0197-0186(03)00019-6.


The concentration and metabolism of the primary carbohydrate store in the brain, glycogen, is unknown in the conscious human brain. This study reports the first direct detection and measurement of glycogen metabolism in the human brain, which was achieved using localized 13C NMR spectroscopy. To enhance the NMR signal, the isotopic enrichment of the glucosyl moieties was increased by administration of 80 g of 99% enriched [1-13C]glucose in four subjects. 3 h after the start of the label administration, the 13C NMR signal of brain glycogen C1 was detected (0.36+/-0.07 micromol/g, mean+/-S.D., n=4). Based on the rate of 13C label incorporation into glycogen and the isotopic enrichment of plasma glucose, the flux through glycogen synthase was estimated at 0.17+/-0.05 micromol/(gh). This study establishes that brain glycogen can be measured in humans and indicates that its metabolism is very slow in the conscious human. The noninvasive detection of human brain glycogen opens the prospect of understanding the role and function of this important energy reserve under various physiological and pathophysiological conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Glycogen / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycogen