Cerebellar GABAergic correlates of cognition-mediated verbal fluency in physiology and schizophrenia

F. Piras, F. Piras, N. Banaj, V. Ciullo, D. Vecchio, R. A.E. Edden, G. Spalletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Defective cerebellar GABAergic inhibitory control may participate to the cognitive impairments seen in SZ. We tested the prediction of a model for the relationship between cerebellar GABA concentration and the associative/executive processes required by verbal fluency in patients with schizophrenia (SZ) and matched healthy controls (HC). Method: Magnetic resonance spectroscopy of GABA was performed using a 3 Tesla scanner and verbal fluency assessed by the Controlled Word (WFT) and Semantic (SFT) Fluency tests. Cerebellar GABA measurements were obtained using the MEGA-PRESS acquisition sequence. Linear correlations between cerebellar GABA levels and the WFT, SFT score were performed to test differences between correlation coefficients of SZ and HC. Quantile regressions between GABA levels and the WFT score were performed. Results: Higher cerebellar GABA concentration was associated in SZ with lower phonemic fluency and reduced number of switches among subcategories as opposed to what observed in HC (with higher cerebellar GABA associated with higher number of words and phonemic switches). GABA levels explained phonemic fluency in SZ performing above the group mean. Conclusion: Studying cerebellar GABA provides a valid heuristic to explore the molecular mechanisms of SZ. This is crucial for developing pharmacological treatments to improve cognition and functional recovery in SZ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-594
Number of pages13
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • GABA
  • cerebellum
  • cognition
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • schizophrenia
  • verbal fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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