Reduced GABA levels correlate with cognitive impairment in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis

Guanmei Cao, Richard A.E. Edden, Fei Gao, Hao Li, Tao Gong, Weibo Chen, Xiaohui Liu, Guangbin Wang, Bin Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objectives: To investigate if brain gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) are abnormal compared with healthy controls, and their relationship to cognitive function in RRMS. Methods: Twenty-eight RRMS patients and twenty-six healthy controls underwent magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) at 3-T to detect GABA signals from posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and left hippocampus using the ‘MEGAPoint Resolved Spectroscopy Sequence’ (MEGA-PRESS) technique. All subjects also underwent a cognitive assessment. Results: In RRMS patients, GABA+ were lower in the PCC (p = 0.036) and left hippocampus (p = 0.039) compared with controls, decreased GABA+ in the PCC and left hippocampus were associated with specific cognitive functions (r = -0.452, p = 0.016 and r = 0.451, p = 0.016 respectively); GABA+ in the mPFC were not significantly decreased or related to any cognitive scores (p > 0.05). Conclusions: This study demonstrates that abnormalities of the GABAergic system may be present in the pathogenesis of RRMS and suggests a potential link between regional GABA levels and cognitive impairment in patients with RRMS. Key points: • GABA levels may decrease in patients with RRMS. • Lower GABA levels correlated with worse cognitive performance in patients with RRMS. • Dysfunctional GABAergic neurotransmission may have a role in cognitive impairment in RRMS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1140-1148
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean radiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Cognitive impairment
  • GABA
  • H-MRS
  • Multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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