Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) measurements of energy metabolism (i.e. cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen consumption, CMR(O2)), blood circulation (i.e. cerebral blood flow, CBF, and volume, CBV), and functional MRI (fMRI) signal over a wide range of neuronal activity and pharmacological treatments are used to interpret the neurophysiologic basis of blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) image-contrast at 7 T in glutamatergic neurons of rat cerebral cortex. Multi-modal MRI and MRS measurements of CMR(O2), CBF, CBV and BOLD signal (both gradient-echo and spin-echo) are used to interpret the neuroenergetic basis of BOLD image-contrast. Since each parameter that can influence the BOLD image-contrast is measured quantitatively and separately, multi-modal measurements of changes in CMR(O2), CBF, CBV, BOLD fMRI signal allow calibration and validation of the BOLD image-contrast. Good agreement between changes in CMR(O2) calculated from BOLD theory and measured by (13)C MRS, reveals that BOLD fMRI signal-changes at 7 T are closely linked with alterations in neuronal glucose oxidation, both for activation and deactivation paradigms. To determine the neurochemical basis of BOLD, pharmacological treatment with lamotrigine, which is a neuronal voltage-dependent Na(+) channel blocker and neurotransmitter glutamate release inhibitor, is used in a rat forepaw stimulation model. Attenuation of the functional changes in CBF and BOLD with lamotrigine reveals that the fMRI signal is associated with release of glutamate from neurons, which is consistent with a link between neurotransmitter cycling and energy metabolism. Comparisons of CMR(O2) and CBF over a wide dynamic range of neuronal activity provide insight into the regulation of energy metabolism and oxygen delivery in the cerebral cortex. The current results reveal the energetic and physiologic components of the BOLD fMRI signal and indicate the required steps towards mapping neuronal activity quantitatively by fMRI at steady-state. Consequences of these results from rat brain for similar calibrated BOLD fMRI studies in the human brain are discussed.