The etiology of cerebral abnormalities after focal status epilepticus (SE) is unknown. Possible causes include hypoxia and the excessive release of excitatory amino acids. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of a 21-year-old patient with "cryptogenic" continuous motor seizures showed swelling and signal hyperintensity of the contralateral parietotemporal cortex, the thalamus, and the ipsilateral cerebellum on T2-weighted images. These regions are connected by glutamatergic pathways. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) of the cortical lesion yielded a signal peak at the resonance frequency of 2.29 ppm, suggesting a focal increase of glutamate or its degradation product glutamine. At 3-month follow-up, structural alterations had disappeared, but the N-acetyl-aspartate/choline ratio was still reduced in the previously abnormal area. These findings are the first to demonstrate the contribution of MRS to pathophysiologic studies of focal SE in humans and, in combination with the pattern of imaging abnormalities, support a major role of glutamate for seizure-related brain damage.