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This paper studies the problem of stabilization for sampled-data neural-network-based control systems with an optimal guaranteed cost. Unlike previous works, the resulting closed-loop system with variable uncertain sampling cannot simply be regarded as an ordinary continuous-time system with a fast-varying delay in the state. By defining a novel piecewise Lyapunov functional and using a convex combination technique, the characteristic of sampled-data systems is captured. A new delay-dependent stabilization criterion is established in terms of linear matrix inequalities such that the maximal sampling interval and the minimal guaranteed cost control performance can be obtained. It is shown that the newly proposed approach can lead to less conservative and less complex results than the existing ones. Application examples are given to illustrate the effectiveness and the benefits of the proposed method.