Using in vivo 1H NMR spectroscopy (1H MRS) and biochemical analysis, the effects of hyperammonemia on cerebral function were studied in three rat models: acute liver ischemia (LIS), administration of urease (UREASE) and administration of methionine sulfoximine (MSO). By means of localization in three dimensions signals were obtained exclusively from the cerebral cortex. Specially developed lineshape correction and fitting methods were used to quantitate the MRS signals. The following concentration changes were observed; a decrease in glutamate and (phospho)choline for all the models; an increase in glutamine in the LIS and UREASE model but a decrease in the MSO model; a marked increase in lactate in the LIS and UREASE group; a tendency to a decrease in N-acetylaspartate in all the models. These changes agree well with the changes in the post-mortem biochemically determined cerebral cortex glutamine and glutamate concentrations. Estimated absolute 1H MRS metabolite concentrations agree well with those obtained by other techniques; cerebral cortex glutamate, however, is underestimated by about 35% by NMR. The present data support the hypothesis that hyperammonemia is associated with a decreased availability of glutamate for neurotransmission.