Decreased GABA levels in anterior cingulate cortex/medial prefrontal cortex in panic disorder

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Abstract

Changes of various brain metabolites including γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), measured by 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), have been reported in panic disorder (PD). Deficits in GABA have been implicated in the pathophysiology of PD. Furthermore, it has been suggested that cortical metabolite changes in PD are familial. Eleven PD patients, including five with and six without a PD family history, and eight age- and gender-matched healthy controls without a family history of psychopathology were recruited. Each subject underwent MRS exams and behavioral assessments (resting visual analog anxiety level and the Panic Disorder Severity Scale). GABA was detected with a MEGA-PRESS J-editing sequence and fitted to minimize macromolecule contaminations. A significant decrease in GABA, expressed as the ratio of GABA over total creatine (GABA/tCr), was detected in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)/medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in PD patients (p < 0.05), which tends to be pronounced in patients with a PD family history. No other patient/control differences in metabolites were noted in the ACC/mPFC or occipital cortex (OCC). Overall, our results indicate that deficits in GABA levels in PD patients vary by brain regions and possibly by family history status.

Highlights

▪ GABA-edited MRS was used to study GABA levels in ACC/mPFC and OCC in panic patients. ▪ A GABA deficit was found in the ACC/mPFC of panic disorder patients. ▪ No other significant metabolic changes were found in either brain region. ▪ Patients with positive family history tend to have a more pronounced GABA deficit.

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