Mitochondria isolated from brain tissue following middle cerebral artery occlusion or during early reperfusion were tested for their ability to generate a membrane potential under standard conditions in vitro. Membrane potential was evaluated based on rhodamine 123 fluorescence in the mitochondria as detected using flow cytometry. Compared with equivalent samples from the contralateral hemisphere, the geometric mean fluorescence was significantly lower in mitochondria prepared from the striatum and perifocal tissue in the cortex at 3 h ischemia. During reperfusion, this property was decreased in mitochondria from tissue in the striatum and cortex that had been part of severely ischemic core tissue during the arterial occlusion. These findings provide additional evidence that mitochondria develop changes during ischemia and reperfusion that are likely to limit their ability to respond to changing energy requirements and contribute to cell dysfunction and cell death. It also demonstrates the ability to gain a sensitive measure of these mitochondrial changes using flow cytometry.