Global cerebral blood flow (CBF), global cerebral metabolic rates for oxygen (CMRO2), and for glucose (CMRglc), and lactate efflux were measured during rest and during cerebral activation induced by the Wisconsin card sorting test. Measurements were performed in healthy volunteers using the Kety-Schmidt technique. Global CMRO2 was unchanged during cerebral activation, whereas global CBF and global CMRglc both increased by 12%, reducing the molar ratio of oxygen to glucose consumption from 6.0 during baseline conditions to 5.4 during activation. Data obtained in the period following cerebral activation showed that the activation-induced resetting of the relation between CMRglc and CMRO2 persisted virtually unaltered for > or = 40 min after the mental activation task was terminated. The activation-induced increase in cerebral lactate efflux measured over the same time period accounted for only a small fraction of the activation-induced excess glucose uptake. These data confirm earlier reports that brain activation can induce resetting of the cerebral oxygen/glucose consumption ratio, and indicate that the resetting persists for a long period after cerebral activation has been terminated and physiologic stress indicators returned to baseline values. Activation-induced resetting of the cerebral oxygen/glucose uptake ratio is not necessarily accounted for by increased lactate production from nonoxidative glucose metabolism.