Cerebral metabolism is tightly regulated and fundamental for healthy neurological function. There is increasing evidence that alterations in this metabolism may be a precursor and early biomarker of later stage disease processes. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) is a powerful tool to non-invasively assess tissue metabolites and has many applications for studying the normal and diseased brain. However, the technique has limitations including low spatial and temporal resolution, difficulties in discriminating overlapping peaks, and challenges in assessing metabolic flux rather than steady-state concentrations. Hyperpolarized carbon-13 magnetic resonance imaging is an emerging clinical technique that may overcome some of these spatial and temporal limitations, providing novel insights into neurometabolism in both health and in pathological processes such as glioma, stroke and multiple sclerosis. This review will explore the growing body of pre-clinical data that demonstrates a potential role for the technique in assessing metabolism in the central nervous system. There are now a number of clinical studies being undertaken in this area and this review will present the emerging clinical data as well as the potential future applications of hyperpolarized 13C magnetic resonance imaging in the brain, in both clinical and pre-clinical studies.