The therapeutic influences of estrogen treatment on age- and diabetes-related declines in regional brain glucose utilization (RBGU) rates were evaluated in 8- to 20-week-old female C57BL/KsJ normal (+/?) and diabetic (db/db) mice. Following either oil vehicle (oil: 0.1 ml) or estradiol (E: 1 µg/3.5 days) treatments starting at 3 weeks of age, RBGU rates were subsequently determined at 8, 12, 16 and 20 weeks of age. A gradual decline in the basal rate of brain glucose utilization was observed in all control (oil- and E-treated) groups between 8 and 20 weeks. Expression of the hyperglycemic-obese diabetes syndrome in db/db mice resulted in a significant reduction in RBGU rates between 8 and 20 weeks relative to control values. In estrogen-sensitive hypothalamic, septal and amygdaloid regions, E therapy modulated RBGU rates in db/db mice relative to oil-treated diabetics, but did not significantly alter utilization rates in +/? mice. In cortical samples, E therapy had no significant influence on glucose utilization rates in either control or diabetic groups. A noticeable pattern of maturation-associated decline in CNS glucose utilization rates in all brain regions resulted in comparable regional metabolic indices being exhibited by all groups at 20 weeks of age, with the exception of the diabetes-associated exacerbation of RBGU rates in the oil-treated db/db group. These data demonstrate that the normal development-related decline in regional brain carbohydrate metabolism is accelerated by the diabetes syndrome, and that E therapy can modulate the syndrome-associated suppression of glucose utilization in steroid-sensitive CNS loci. These data suggest that the depressive influences of the diabetes syndrome on brain carbohydrate utilization rates may be therapeutically modified in recognized CNS regions possessing steroid-sequestering, metabolically responsive neurons.