Acute stress effects on GABA and glutamate levels in the prefrontal cortex: A 7T 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy study

L C Houtepen, R R Schür, J P Wijnen, V O Boer, M P M Boks, R S Kahn, M Joëls, D W Klomp, C H Vinkers

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There is ample evidence that the inhibitory GABA and the excitatory glutamate system are essential for an adequate response to stress. Both GABAergic and glutamatergic brain circuits modulate hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis activity, and stress in turn affects glutamate and GABA levels in the rodent brain. However, studies examining stress-induced GABA and glutamate levels in the human brain are scarce. Therefore, we investigated the influence of acute psychosocial stress (using the Trier Social Stress Test) on glutamate and GABA levels in the medial prefrontal cortex of 29 healthy male individuals using 7 Tesla proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. In vivo GABA and glutamate levels were measured before and 30 min after exposure to either the stress or the control condition. We found no associations between psychosocial stress or cortisol stress reactivity and changes over time in medial prefrontal glutamate and GABA levels. GABA and glutamate levels over time were significantly correlated in the control condition but not in the stress condition, suggesting that very subtle differential effects of stress on GABA and glutamate across individuals may occur. However, overall, acute psychosocial stress does not appear to affect in vivo medial prefrontal GABA and glutamate levels, at least this is not detectable with current practice 1H-MRS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-200
Number of pages6
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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