What is GABA in bipolar disorder?

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is one of the most important inhibitors of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. GABA is thought to be dysfunctional in people with depression and other affective disorders, with reduced levels found in human postmortem studies. GABA can also be measured via peripheral levels in plasma, via central levels in cerebrospinal fluid, and in particular brain regions using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

What is the evidence for changes in GABA levels in people with bipolar disorder?

Moderate to high quality evidence shows a medium-sized effect of reduced levels of GABA in plasma of people with bipolar disorder during a depression phase when compared to controls without bipolar disorder. Moderate quality evidence also suggests a medium-sized effect of reduced levels of GABA in plasma during a euthymic phase. There were no differences in GABA levels between bipolar disorder and controls when GABA was measured in cerebrospinal fluid or with magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Compared to people with unipolar depression, people with bipolar depression showed higher GABA levels in cerebrospinal fluid, with no differences in plasma levels.

December 2021

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Last updated at: 6:17 pm, 9th December 2021
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