Localized 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy provides a unique window for studying cerebral carbohydrate metabolism through, e.g. the completely non-invasive measurement of cerebral glucose and glycogen metabolism. In addition, label incorporation into amino acid neurotransmitters such as glutamate (Glu), GABA and aspartate can be measured providing information on Krebs cycle flux and oxidative metabolism. Given the compartmentation of key enzymes such as pyruvate carboxylase and glutamine synthetase, the detection of label incorporation into glutamine indicated that neuronal and glial metabolism can be measured in vivo. The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical overview of these recent advances into measuring compartmentation of brain energy metabolism using localized in vivo 13C NMR spectroscopy. The studies reviewed herein showed that anaplerosis is significant in brain, as is oxidative ATP generation in glia and the rate of glial glutamine synthesis attributed to the replenishment of the neuronal Glu pool and that brain glycogen metabolism is slow under resting conditions. This new modality promises to provide a new investigative tool to study aspects of normal and diseased brain hitherto unaccessible, such as the interplay between glutamatergic action, glucose and glycogen metabolism during brain activation, and the derangements thereof in patients with hepatic encephalopathy, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes.