The inferior colliculus is a central auditory structure which serves as a site for the integration of ascending and descending auditory information. Changes in central auditory structures may occur with acoustic exposure, which cannot be explained by alterations in cochlear function alone. Rats were exposed to a 10-kHz tone at 100 dB SPL for 9 h. Auditory brainstem response measures showed an initial 25-30-dB threshold shift across all tested frequencies. By 30 days post-exposure, thresholds for clicks and most frequencies returned to near control levels; however, thresholds remained elevated at 10 and 20 kHz. Inner hair cell loss was confined to apical and basal ends of the cochlea, and did not exceed 20%. Inferior colliculus levels of the two isoforms of the GABA synthetic enzyme glutamate decarboxylase (65,000 and 67,000 mol. wt forms) were measured immediately post-exposure (0 h) and at two and 30 days post-exposure using quantitative immunocytochemical and western blotting techniques. Zero-hour measures revealed a significant increase in the level of glutamate decarboxylase (mol. wt 67,000) protein (118%), as well as in the optical density (35%) of immunolabeled cells. By 30 days post-exposure, inferior colliculus protein levels of both glutamate decarboxylase isoforms were significantly below unexposed controls (39% and 21% for the 65,000 and 67,000 mol. wt forms, respectively). These studies describe increased markers for GABA immediately following acoustic exposure, followed by a decline to below control levels from two to 30 days post-exposure. It remains to be determined whether noise trauma-induced changes in glutamate decarboxylase levels in the inferior colliculus reflect protective up-regulation in response to intense stimulation, followed by the establishment of new neurotransmitter equilibrium levels.