Glucose is an important fuel for brain activity, but how do neurons actually use it? The traditional view is that neurons directly consume glucose to refill their energy supply. Now new evidence suggests that other brain cells, called astrocytes, are refueling the neurons.
Neuroscientists have long held that glial cells in the brain--of which astrocytes are one type--support neurons by protecting them from invaders and electrical interruption as well as "feeding" them in some unknown way. Modern research has indicated that astrocytes consume glucose and convert it to lactate during neural activity, but experts still thought neurons consumed glucose directly. To probe these mechanisms, Cornell University researchers used multiphoton microscopy to look at glucose metabolism in the cells of rat brain slices; illuminating the cells causes by-products of energy metabolism to fluoresce.
This article was originally published with the title Refueling the Brain.