GABA content within the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is related to trait anxiety

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Abstract

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) plays a key role in emotion processing and regulation. vmPFC dysfunction may lead to disinhibition of amygdala causing high anxiety levels. γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) inter-neurons within vmPFC shape the information flow to amygdala. Thus, we hypothesize that GABA content within vmPFC could be relevant to trait anxiety. Forty-three healthy volunteers aged between 20 and 88 years were assessed for trait anxiety with the Subscale-2 of the State-Trait-Anxiety Inventory (STAI-Y2) and were studied with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to investigate GABA and Glx (glutamate+glutamine) contents within vmPFC. Total creatine (tCr) was used as internal reference. Partial correlations assessed the association between metabolite levels and STAI-Y2 scores, removing the effect of possible nuisance factors including age, educational level, volumes of gray matter and white matter within magnetic resonance spectroscopy voxel. We observed a positive relationship between GABA/tCr and STAI-Y2 scores. No significant relationships were found between Glx/tCr and STAI-Y2 and between tCr/water and STAI-Y2. No differences were found between males and females as regards to age, STAI-Y2, GABA/tCr, Glx/tCr, tCr/water, gray matter and white matter volumes. We suggest a close relationship between GABA content within vmPFC and trait anxiety providing new insights in the physiology of emotional brain.

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