School of Psychology News & events

Research Summary

Muhlert, N, Lawrence, A (2013 - 2014) Optimising GABA Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) to elucidate the neurochemical pathways underpinning stress‐reactivity and impulsivity. Wellcome Trust. £46,786.

The inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is altered in several psychiatric disorders. It is also implicated in neural/immune changes linked to heightened stress-reactivity, a potential precipitator of psychiatric disease in at-risk individuals. Accurate measurement of GABA in vivo, particularly in brain regions involved in cognitive/emotional regulation, could provide unique insights into the mechanisms underpinning psychopathology risk.

Current methods for measuring GABA are limited, however, by their inability to separate GABA from other behaviourally-relevant macromolecules (MM). There is a pressing need, therefore, for neuroimaging methods that reduce the MM contribution to GABA measurement, and that allow more sensitive testing of key hypotheses about how GABA modulates cognition and emotion.

This fellowship aims to (a) implement a new magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) protocol to optimize GABA measurement in frontal brain regions and (b) examine how individual differences in GABA relate to poor cognitive/emotional regulation, as well as inflammatory markers of heightened stress-reactivity.

This project will generate ‘feasibility’ data designed to underpin applications for a Wellcome Trust Fellowship and MRC Career Development Award. These awards would address RCUK strategic priorities in mental-health and wellbeing, including an integrated approach involving genetics, imaging, psychosocial risk, behaviour and physical health outcomes.