The current knowledge of the normal biochemistry of compounds that give rise to resonances in human brain proton magnetic resonance spectra measureable at readily available field strengths (i.e. ≤3 T) is reviewed. Molecules covered include myo- and scyllo-inositol, glycerophospho- and phospho-choline and choline, creatine and phosphocreatine, N-acetylaspartate, N-acetylaspartylglutamate, glutamate, glutamine, γ-aminobutyrate, glucose, glutathione and lactate. The factors which influence changes in the levels of these compounds are discussed. As most proton resonances in the brain at low field are derived from a combination of moieties whose biochemistry is complex and interrelated, an understanding of the mechanisms underlying why these species change is crucial to meaningful interpretation of human brain spectra.