The anxiolytic, hypnotic, and anti-convulsant properties of benzodiazepines (BDZs) require modulation of distinct GABAA receptor α-subtypes. BDZ modulation of GABAA receptors is often described in terms of increased opening frequency, and contrasted with the increased open durations occurring with barbiturate modulation. Several studies spanning single channel, rapid kinetic, and whole cell techniques have suggested that BDZs effect this observed change in frequency through increased affinity for GABA. BDZ-sensitive αβγ isoforms exist at extrasynaptic as well as synaptic locations, where they encounter markedly different concentration and time-course of GABA exposure. Interestingly, this affinity-based mechanism (specifically, decreasing the GABA unbinding rate) is only predicted to increase opening frequency under conditions that allow the unbinding and rebinding cycles typical of prolonged exposure to low GABA concentrations, which are more likely to occur at extrasynaptic GABAA receptors. In contrast, when rebinding is less likely, such as may occur in certain synaptic conditions, the number, but not the frequency, of channel openings increases in response to BDZ modulation. In conclusion, not only can multiple kinetic mechanisms alter channel opening frequency, but a single mechanism – increased affinity – impacts opening frequency differently under different contexts of GABAA receptor activation.