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GABAA receptor mapping in human using non-invasive electrophysiology

Shaw, Alex D. ORCID:, Chandler, Hannah L., Hamandi, Khalid, Muthukumaraswamy, Suresh D. ORCID:, Hammers, Alexander and Singh, Krish D. ORCID: 2020. GABAA receptor mapping in human using non-invasive electrophysiology. [Online]. bioRxiv. Available at:

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The non-invasive study of cortical oscillations provides a window onto neuronal processing. Temporal correlation of these oscillations between distinct anatomical regions is considered a marker of functional connectedness. As the most abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is thought to play a crucial role in shaping the frequency and amplitude of oscillations, which thereby suggests a role for GABA in shaping the topography of functional activity and connectivity. This study explored the effects of pharmacologically blocking the reuptake of GABA (increasing local concentrations) through oral administration of the GABA transporter 1 (GAT1) blocker tiagabine (15 mg). We show that the spatial distribution of tiagabine-induced activity changes, across the brain, corresponds to group-average flumazenil PET maps of GABAA receptor distribution. In a placebo-controlled crossover design, we collected resting magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings from 15 healthy male individuals prior to, and at 1-, 3- and 5- hours post, administration of tiagabine and placebo pill. Using leakage-corrected amplitude envelope correlations (AECs), we quantified the functional connectivity in discrete frequency bands across the whole brain, using the 90-region Automatic Anatomical Labelling atlas (AAL90), as well as quantifying the average oscillatory activity across the brain. Analysis of variance in connectivity using a drug-by-session (2×4) design revealed interaction effects, accompanied by main effects of drug and session. Post-hoc permutation testing of each post-drug recording against the respective pre-drug baseline revealed consistent reductions of a bilateral occipital network spanning theta, alpha and beta frequencies, and across 1- 3- and 5- hour recordings following tiagabine, but not placebo. The same analysis applied to activity, across the brain, also revealed a significant interaction, with post-hoc permutation testing demonstrating significant increases in activity across frontal regions, coupled with reductions in activity in posterior regions, across the delta, theta, alpha and beta frequency bands. Crucially, we show that the spatial distribution of tiagabine-induced changes in oscillatory activity overlap significantly with group-averaged maps of the estimated distribution of GABAA receptors, derived from scaled flumazenil volume-of-distribution (FMZ-VT) PET, hence demonstrating a possible mechanistic link between GABA availability, GABAA receptor distribution, and low-frequency network oscillations. We therefore propose that electrophysiologically-derived maps of oscillatory connectivity and activity can be used as sensitive, time-resolved, and targeted receptor-mapping tools for pharmacological imaging at the group level, providing direct measures of target engagement and pharmacodynamics.

Item Type: Website Content
Date Type: Submission
Status: Submitted
Schools: Psychology
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Publisher: bioRxiv
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2023 02:05

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