Inhibition is a physiological process that decreases the probability of a neuron generating an action potential. The two main mechanisms that have been proposed for inhibition are hyperpolarization and shunting. Shunting results from increased membrane conductance, and it reduces the neuron-firing probability. Here we show that ambient GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, can excite adult hippocampal interneurons. In these cells, the GABA(A) current reversal potential is depolarizing, making baseline tonic GABA(A) conductance excitatory. Increasing the tonic conductance enhances shunting-mediated inhibition, which eventually overpowers the excitation. Such a biphasic change in interneuron firing leads to corresponding changes in the GABA(A)-mediated synaptic signalling. The described phenomenon suggests that the excitatory or inhibitory actions of the current are set not only by the reversal potential, but also by the conductance.