Altered hippocampal GABA and glutamate levels and uncoupling from functional connectivity in multiple sclerosis

Fei Gao, Xuntao Yin, Richard A.E. Edden, Alan C. Evans, Junhai Xu, Guanmei Cao, Honghao Li, Muwei Li, Bin Zhao, Jian Wang, Guangbin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


There is growing evidence for dysfunctional glutamatergic excitation and/or gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic inhibition in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Cognitive impairment may occur during the early stages of MS and hippocampal abnormalities have been suggested as biomarkers. However, researchers have not clearly determined whether changes in hippocampal GABA and glutamate (Glu) levels are associated with cognitive impairment and aberrant neural activity in patients with MS. We used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure GABA+ and Glu levels in the left hippocampal region of 29 patients with relapsing–remitting MS and 29 healthy controls (HCs). Resting-state functional connectivity (FC) with the hippocampus was also examined. Compared to HCs, patients exhibited significantly lower GABA+ and Glu levels, which were associated with verbal and visuospatial memory deficits, respectively. Patients also showed decreased FC strengths between the hippocampus and several cortical regions, which are located within the default mode network. Moreover, hippocampal GABA+ levels and Glu/GABA+ ratios correlated with the FC strengths in HCs but not in patients with MS. This study describes a novel method for investigating the complex relationships among excitatory/inhibitory neurotransmitters, brain connectivity and cognition in health and disease. Strategies that modulate Glu and GABA neurotransmission may represent new therapeutic treatments for patients with MS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)813-823
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • functional connectivity
  • gamma-aminobutyric acid
  • glutamate
  • hippocampus
  • multiple sclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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