Glucose transport into the brain is depressed in chronically hyperglycemic (diabetic) rats. To determine whether hypoglycemia has the opposite effect, brain transport of hexoses and other substrates was examined in chronically and acutely hypoglycemic rats. We produced chronic hypoglycemia by implanting insulin-secreting tumors or insulin-releasing osmotic mini-pumps or by repeated injection of protamine zinc insulin (PZI) and acute hypoglycemia by intravascular injection of regular insulin. Blood-brain barrier (BBB) transport was measured using the brain uptake index (BUI) method. In the three models of chronic hypoglycemia, brain glucose extraction was increased compared with controls. The extraction of deoxyglucose and several other hexoses was also increased by chronic hypoglycemia. Acute hypoglycemia had no effect on brain transport. The transport of other substrates was either not affected or depressed, suggesting increased brain hexose transport is specific. Studies of freeze-blown brain in insulinoma-engrafted rats showed that brain glucose levels were depressed while creatine phosphate, ATP, and glucose 6-phosphate were maintained. Tumor removal led to a reversion of brain glucose transport to control rates but only after 5-25 days. These findings support the view that glucose transport across the BBB is modulated by chronic alterations in the ambient glucose concentration. They also may explain why some patients with chronic hypoglycemia tolerate low blood glucose concentrations.