High resolution 1H NMR spectroscopy was used to analyze temporal lobe biopsies obtained from patients with epilepsy. Heat-stabilized cerebrum, dialyzed cytosolic macromolecules, and perchloric acid extracts were studied using one- and two-dimensional spectroscopy. Anterior temporal lobe neocortex was enriched in GABA, glutamate, alanine, N-acetylaspartate, and creatine. Subjacent white matter was enriched in aspartate, glutamine, and inositol. The N-acetylaspartate/creatine mole ratio was lower in anterior temporal neocortex with mesial (0.66) than neocortical (0.80) temporal lobe epilepsy. Human brain biopsy samples were separated into crude and refined synaptosomes, neuronal cell bodies, and glia using density gradient centrifugation. Neuronal fractions were enriched in glutamate and N-acetylaspartate. Glial cell fractions were enriched in lactate, glutamine, and inositol. The creatine content was the same in biopsied epileptic cortex (8.8-8.9 mmol/kg) and normal in vivo occipital lobe (8.9 mmol/kg). Glutamate content was higher in epileptic cortex at biopsy (10.1-10.5 mmol/kg) than normal in vivo occipital lobe (8.8 mmol/kg). GABA content was higher in biopsies of epileptic cortex (2.3-2.2 mmol/kg) than in normal in vivo occipital lobe (1.2 mmol/kg). N-acetylaspartate content was lower in biopsied epileptic temporal cortex (5.8-6.8 mmol/kg) than normal in vivo occipital lobe (8.9 mmol/kg). Paired in vivo and ex vivo measurements are critical for a firm understanding of the changes seen in the 1H-spectra from patients with epilepsy.