Quantitative imaging of energy expenditure in human brain

Xiao Hong Zhu, Hongyan Qiao, Fei Du, Qiang Xiong, Xiao Liu, Xiaoliang Zhang, Kamil Ugurbil, Wei Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


Despite the essential role of the brain energy generated from ATP hydrolysis in supporting cortical neuronal activity and brain function, it is challenging to noninvasively image and directly quantify the energy expenditure in the human brain. In this study, we applied an advanced in vivo 31P MRS imaging approach to obtain regional cerebral metabolic rates of high-energy phosphate reactions catalyzed by ATPase (CMR ATPase) and creatine kinase (CMR CK), and to determine CMR ATPase and CMR CK in pure gray mater (GM) and white mater (WM), respectively. It was found that both ATPase and CK rates are three times higher in GM than WM; and CMR CK is seven times higher than CMR ATPase in GM and WM. Among the total brain ATP consumption in the human cortical GM and WM, 77% of them are used by GM in which approximately 96% is by neurons. A single cortical neuron utilizes approximately 4.7billion ATPs per second in a resting human brain. This study demonstrates the unique utility of in vivo 31P MRS imaging modality for direct imaging of brain energy generated from ATP hydrolysis, and provides new insights into the human brain energetics and its role in supporting neuronal activity and brain function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2107-2117
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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