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Disrupted GABAergic facilitation of working memory performance in people with schizophrenia.

  • Author(s): Ragland, JD;
  • Maddock, RJ;
  • Hurtado, MY;
  • Tanase, C;
  • Lesh, TA;
  • Niendam, TA;
  • Carter, CS;
  • Ranganath, C
  • et al.


Gamma-Amiobutyric acid (GABA) is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter that facilitates neural oscillations that coordinate neural activity between brain networks to facilitate cognition. The present magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) study tests the hypothesis that GABAergic facilitation of working memory is disrupted in people with schizophrenia (PSZ).


51 healthy participants and 40 PSZ from the UC Davis Early Psychosis Program performed an item and temporal order working memory (WM) task and underwent resting MRS to measure GABA and glutamate concentrations in dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate (ACC) regions of interest. MRS was acquired on a 3 Tesla Siemens scanner and GABA and glutamate concentrations were referenced to creatine. Percent correct on the WM task indexed performance and correlation coefficients examined GABAergic or Glutamatergic facilitation of WM, with Fisher's Z transformation testing for group differences.


There were no group differences in GABA or glutamate concentrations, but WM correlations were reversed between groups. In patients, higher DLPFC GABA was associated with worse rather than better WM performance. This pattern was not observed for glutamate or in the ACC. Although under-powered, there was no indication of medication effects.

Conclusions and relevance

Results cannot be explained by group differences in DLPFC GABA or glutamate concentrations but, instead, indicate that schizophrenia disrupts the GABAergic facilitation of WM seen in healthy individuals. Results appear to parallel post mortem findings in suggesting that schizophrenia alters the distribution of different classes of GABAergic interneurons rather than producing a general deficit across the total population of neurons.

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