Activity-related shifts in intracellular pH (pHi) can exert potent neuromodulatory actions. Different states of neuronal activity of thalamocortical neurons were found to differentially modulate pHi. Tonic activity evoked by injection of depolarizing current led to a reversible rise in [H+]i which was nearly abolished in the presence of TTX. Block of voltage-gated calcium channels with 1 mM Ni2+ reduced the [H+]i transients related to tonic activity. Rhythmic activation of burst discharges caused changes of [H+]i which were decreased by TTX, whereas 1 mM Ni2+ almost abolished the [H+]i transients. The present results show that different forms of neuronal activity can lead to intracellular acidification caused by different mechanisms, i.e. Na+ and Ca2+ influx through sodium and Ca2+ channels, respectively, and the subsequent activation of a Ca2+/H+ pump. The resulting acidosis is suggested to reduce further Ca2+ influx and prevent excessive neuronal excitation.