We measured local cerebral glucose utilization in 19 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LG), partial seizures (PS), atypical and classical phenylketonuria (PKU), Leigh disease, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), using positron emission tomography (PET). The mean values of regional glucose utilization in interictal scans of LG were significantly reduced in all brain regions when compared with that of PS (P less than 0.005). PET studies of glucose utilization in LG revealed more widespread hypometabolism than in PS. Two siblings with dihydropteridine reductase deficiency, a patient with classical PKU, and a boy with cytochrome c oxidase deficiency showed reduced glucose utilization in the caudate and putamen. A marked decrease in glucose utilization was found in the cortical gray matter of a patient with rapidly progressive SSPE, despite relatively preserved utilization in the caudate and putamen. The PET study of a patient with slowly progressive SSPE revealed patterns and values of glucose utilization similar to those of the control. Thus, PET provided a useful clue toward understanding brain dysfunction in LG, PS, PKU, Leigh disease, and SSPE.