Cerebral hypometabolism characterizes mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. Low-level light therapy (LLLT) enhances the metabolic capacity of neurons in culture through photostimulation of cytochrome oxidase, the mitochondrial enzyme that catalyzes oxygen consumption in cellular respiration. Growing evidence supports that neuronal metabolic enhancement by LLLT positively impacts neuronal function in vitro and in vivo. Based on its effects on energy metabolism, it is proposed that LLLT will also affect the cerebral cortex in vivo and modulate higher-order cognitive functions such as memory. In vivo effects of LLLT on brain and behavior are poorly characterized. We tested the hypothesis that in vivo LLLT facilitates cortical oxygenation and metabolic energy capacity and thereby improves memory retention. Specifically, we tested this hypothesis in rats using fear extinction memory, a form of memory modulated by prefrontal cortex activation. Effects of LLLT on brain metabolism were determined through measurement of prefrontal cortex oxygen concentration with fluorescent quenching oximetry and by quantitative cytochrome oxidase histochemistry. Experiment 1 verified that LLLT increased the rate of oxygen consumption in the prefrontal cortex in vivo. Experiment 2 showed that LLLT-treated rats had an enhanced extinction memory as compared to controls. Experiment 3 showed that LLLT reduced fear renewal and prevented the reemergence of extinguished conditioned fear responses. Experiment 4 showed that LLLT induced hormetic dose-response effects on the metabolic capacity of the prefrontal cortex. These data suggest that LLLT can enhance cortical metabolic capacity and retention of extinction memories, and implicate LLLT as a novel intervention to improve memory.