THE effects of a traumatic neocortical lesion, induced by transcranial cold injury, on brain metabolism and gene expression were examined. The surrounding of the lesions was characterized by increased glucose and lactate levels without major disturbances of protein synthesis or energy state. A transient pH decrease by 0.4 units was noticed 1 h post-injury, which shifted towards alkaline values by 3 h. The metabolic disturbances did not differ between injured animals with spontaneous spreading depressions (SD, n = 14) and those without SD (n = 7). In SD animals, c-fos mRNA was strongly elevated in the injury-remote cortex, but hsp 72 mRNA was not enhanced. Thus, in contrast to focal ischemia, the metabolic dysfunction around traumatic cortical lesions is not aggravated by SD.