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Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate are the primary neurotransmitters responsible for modulating excitatory and inhibitory signalling within the human brain. Dysfunctional GABAergic and glutamatergic signalling has been identified as a key factor in a range of neuropsychiatric conditions; hence measurement and modulation of these neurometabolites is important for improving our understanding of neuropsychiatric conditions and treatment options. Gabapentin (GBP) is one of several drugs developed to increase GABA levels and is routinely prescribed for conditions such as epilepsy and neuralgia. While animal and human studies indicate that GBP can elevate GABA levels, its exact mechanisms of action are not fully understood, although animal studies indicate that GBP does not have a direct effect upon GABAergic receptors. To investigate the impact of acute GBP administration in the human motor system we used two complimentary approaches – transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). MRS and TMS measures of GABA have repeatedly been found to be uncorrelated and are likely to reflect different pools of synaptic and extra synaptic GABA, hence, measuring both within the same participants allows for an in-depth assessment of GBP effects. Despite significantly increased ratings of fatigue and tiredness within the GBP group, we failed to find any statistically significant changes in our MRS or TMS measures of GABA. Measures of MRS Glutamate (glu) and glutamine (gln) were also not affected by the administration of GBP. These findings are important as they run counter to previous work, and suggest that the effect of an acute dose of GBP is likely to be subject to substantial individual variation, with timing of measures particularly likely to impact observed effects. These findings have implications for the use of acute GBP dosing as a means to explore GABAergic function in health and disease.

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Journal article


Neuroimage: Reports

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