Abstract: Reactive oxygen species have been implicated in neuronal injury associated with various neuropathological disorders. However, little is known regarding the relationship between antioxidant enzyme capacity and resultant toxicity. The antioxidant pathways of primary cerebrocortical cultures were directly examined using a novel technique that measures pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) activity, which is enzymatically coupled to glutathione peroxidase (GPx) detoxification of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). PPP activity was quantified from data obtained by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis of released labeled lactate following metabolic degradation of [1,6-13C2,6,6-2H2]glucose by cerebrocortical cultures. The antioxidant capacity of these cultures was systematically evaluated using H2O2, and the resultant toxicity was quantified by lactate dehydrogenase release. Exposure of primary mixed and purified astrocytic cultures to H2O2 caused stimulation of PPP activity in a concentration-dependent fashion from 0.25 to 22.2% and from 6.9 to 66.7% of glucose metabolized to lactate through the PPP, respectively. In the mixed cultures, chelation of iron before H2O2 exposure was protective and resulted in a correlation between PPP saturation and toxicity. Conversely, addition of iron, inhibition of GPx, or depletion of glutathione decreased H2O2-induced PPP stimulation and increased toxicity. These results implicate the Fenton reaction, reflect the pivotal role of GPx in H2O2 detoxification, and contribute to our understanding of the etiological role of free radicals in neuropathological conditions.