The aim of this study was to measure extracellular chemical changes in the cerebral cortex in response to compression contusion trauma in rats. Energy-related metabolites (i.e., lactate, pyruvate, adenosine, inosine, and hypoxanthine) and amino acids were harvested from the extracellular fluid (ECF) using microdialysis and analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography. The measurements were performed in cortical tissue, where neuronal injury occurs in this model. The severity of the trauma was varied by using different depths of impact: mild trauma, 1.5 mm; severe trauma, 2.5 mm. The trauma induced a dramatic increase in the ECF levels of energy-related metabolites that was conditioned by the severity of the insult. The ECF level of taurine, glutamate, aspartate, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) also rose markedly, while other amino acids did not change significantly. The results suggest that the trauma induced a transient, profound focal disturbance of energy metabolism in the cortical tissue, probably as a result of mechanically induced disruption of ion homeostasis and reduced blood flow in combination. The data support the potential role of glutamate and aspartate as mediators of traumatic brain injury. However, the concomitantly released adenosine, GABA, and taurine may be protective and ameliorate excitotoxicity. In analogy with the reported cumulative damaging effects of repeated ischemic insults, the observed ECF changes may help explain the vulnerability of traumatized brain tissue to secondary ischemia.