Reduced Binding Potential of GABA-A/Benzodiazepine Receptors in Individuals at Ultra-high Risk for Psychosis: An [18F]-Fluoroflumazenil Positron Emission Tomography Study

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Altered transmission of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a major inhibitory neurotransmitter, may contribute to the development of schizophrenia. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the presence of GABA-A/benzodiazepine (BZ) receptor binding abnormalities in individuals at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis in comparison with normal controls using [18F]-fluoroflumazenil (FFMZ) positron emission tomography (PET). In particular, we set regions of interest in the striatum (caudate, putamen, and nucleus accumbens) and medial temporal area (hippocampus and parahippocampal gyrus).


Eleven BZ-naive people at UHR and 15 normal controls underwent PET scanning using [18F]-FFMZ to measure GABA-A/BZ receptor binding potential. The regional group differences between UHR individuals and normal controls were analyzed using Statistical Parametric Mapping 8 software. Participants were evaluated using the structured interview for prodromal syndromes and neurocognitive function tasks.


People at UHR demonstrated significantly reduced binding potential of GABA-A/BZ receptors in the right caudate.


Altered GABAergic transmission and/or the imbalance of inhibitory and excitatory systems in the striatum may be present at the putative prodromal stage and play a pivotal role in the pathophysiology of psychosis.

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