GABA levels and measures of intracortical and interhemispheric excitability in healthy young and older adults: an MRS-TMS study

Lize Hermans, Oron Levin, Celine Maes, Peter van Ruitenbeek, Kirstin Friederike Heise, Richard A.E. Edden, Nicolaas A.J. Puts, Ronald Peeters, Bradley R. King, Raf L.J. Meesen, Inge Leunissen, Stephan P. Swinnen, Koen Cuypers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Edited magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) have often been used to study the integrity of the GABAergic neurotransmission system in healthy aging. To investigate whether the measurement outcomes obtained with these 2 techniques are associated with each other in older human adults, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the left sensorimotor cortex were assessed with edited MRS in 28 older (63–74 years) and 28 young adults (19–34 years). TMS at rest was then used to measure intracortical inhibition (short-interval intracortical inhibition/long-interval intracortical inhibition), intracortical facilitation, interhemispheric inhibition from left to right primary motor cortex (M1) and recruitment curves of left and right M1. Our observations showed that short-interval intracortical inhibition and long-interval intracortical inhibition in the left M1 were reduced in older adults, while GABA levels did not significantly differ between age groups. Furthermore, MRS-assessed GABA within left sensorimotor cortex was not correlated with TMS-assessed cortical excitability or inhibition. These observations suggest that healthy aging gives rise to altered inhibition at the postsynaptic receptor level, which does not seem to be associated with MRS-assessed GABA+ levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-177
Number of pages10
JournalNeurobiology of aging
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Aging
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
  • Interhemispheric inhibition
  • Intracortical inhibition
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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