Localized (13)C NMR spectroscopy provides a new investigative tool for studying cerebral metabolism. The application of (13)C NMR spectroscopy to living intact humans and animals presents the investigator with a number of unique challenges. This review provides in the first part a tutorial insight into the ingredients required for achieving a successful implementation of localized (13)C NMR spectroscopy. The difficulties in establishing (13)C NMR are the need for decoupling of the one-bond (13)C-(1)H heteronuclear J coupling, the large chemical shift range, the low sensitivity and the need for localization of the signals. The methodological consequences of these technical problems are discussed, particularly with respect to (a) RF front-end considerations, (b) localization methods, (c) the low sensitivity, and (d) quantification methods. Lastly, some achievements of in vivo localized (13)C NMR spectroscopy of the brain are reviewed, such as: (a) the measurement of brain glutamine synthesis and the feasibility of quantifying glutamatergic action in the brain; (b) the demonstration of significant anaplerotic fluxes in the brain; (c) the demonstration of a highly regulated malate-aspartate shuttle in brain energy metabolism and isotope flux; (d) quantification of neuronal and glial energy metabolism; and (e) brain glycogen metabolism in hypoglycemia in rats and humans. We conclude that the unique and novel insights provided by (13)C NMR spectroscopy have opened many new research areas that are likely to improve the understanding of brain carbohydrate metabolism in health and disease.