Cerebral metabolic changes that concur to motor and/or cognitive disorders in actively drinking alcoholics are not well established. We tested the hypothesis that chronic alcoholics exhibit profound alterations in the cerebral metabolism of scyllo-inositol. Brain metabolism was explored in nine actively drinking and 11 recently detoxified chronic alcoholics by in vivo brain (1)H-MRS and in vitro(1)H-MRS of blood serum and cerebrospinal fluid. The cohort was composed of individuals with acute, subacute or chronic encephalopathy or without any clinical encephalopathy. Chronic alcoholism is associated with a hitherto unrecognized accumulation of brain scyllo-inositol. Our results suggest that scyllo-inositol is produced within the central nervous system and shows a diffuse but heterogenous distribution in brain where it can persist several weeks after detoxification. Its highest levels were observed in subjects with a clinically symptomatic alcohol-related encephalopathy. When detected, brain scyllo-inositol takes part in a metabolic encephalopathy since it is associated with reduced N-acetylaspartate and increased creatine. High levels of cerebral scyllo-inositol are correlated with altered glial and neuronal metabolism. Our findings suggest that the accumulation of scyllo-inositol may precede and take part in the development of symptomatic alcoholic metabolic encephalopathy.