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Glucose is the mandatory fuel for the brain, yet the relative contribution of glucose and lactate for neuronal energy metabolism is unclear. We found that increased lactate, but not glucose concentration, enhances the spiking activity of neurons of the cerebral cortex. Enhanced spiking was dependent on ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channels formed with Kir6.2 and SUR1 subunits, which we show are functionally expressed in most neocortical neuronal types. We also demonstrate the ability of cortical neurons to take-up and metabolize lactate. We further reveal that ATP is produced by cortical neurons largely via oxidative phosphorylation and only modestly by glycolysis. Our data demonstrate that in active neurons, lactate is preferred to glucose as an energy substrate, and that lactate metabolism shapes neuronal activity in the neocortex through KATP channels. Our results highlight the importance of metabolic crosstalk between neurons and astrocytes for brain function.

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