Lactic acid was measured continuously in the dialysis perfusate emerging from the striatum of conscious, freely moving rats. The continuous measurement utilized a specific enzymatic/fluorometric detector that provided temporal information about the changes in the concentration of lactate in extracellular fluid (ECF). The level of lactate in extracellular fluid was found to be directly linked to local cellular metabolism. Inhibition of glycolysis with 2-deoxyglucose decreased the ECF level of lactate, whereas increased lactate production was observed after uncoupling mitochondrial electron transport with 2,4-dinitrophenol. A transient increase in the extracellular level of lactate was found after neuronal stimulation (e.g., electroconvulsive shock or local administration of kainic acid). The response to electroconvulsive shock could be attenuated by inhibiting the electrical activity of neurons with tetrodotoxin. Thus, this system is capable of providing novel information about transient changes in the extracellular concentration of lactic acid in real time, and these changes can be related to changes in metabolism and neuronal activity.