The aim of this investigation was to determine the incidence of seizure activity in the acute phase following traumatic brain injury. Compression contusion trauma was produced in the right parietal cortex in 19 artificially ventilated rats. Electroencephalographic recordings were carried out in 17 of the animals for 2 h following the impact. The extracellular levels of neuroactive amino acids were simultaneously monitored in 9 of the experiments using microdialysis. In 14 of the 17 animals a generalized seizure activity with an average duration of 59 s (range 30-101 s) was recorded. The mean time lag between trauma and seizure onset was 67 s (range 26-90 s). The seizure activity was consistently followed by post-ictal depression. The trauma was accompanied by a transient increase of aspartate, taurine, glutamate and glycine, in decreasing rank order. The seizure activity occurred when the levels of these neuroactive amino acids were elevated. It is concluded that the high incidence of seizure activity observed may be an important factor contributing to secondary ischemia after traumatic brain injury. Aspartate and glutamate, potentiated by glycine, may play a role in post-traumatic seizure activity.