GABA content within the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is related to trait anxiety

Stefano Delli Pizzi, Caterina Padulo, Alfredo Brancucci, Giovanna Bubbico, Richard A. Edden, Antonio Ferretti, Raffaella Franciotti, Valerio Manippa, Daniele Marzoli, Marco Onofrj, Gianna Sepede, Armando Tartaro, Luca Tommasi, Stefano Puglisi-Allegra, Laura Bonanni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) plays a key role in emotion processing and regulation. vmPFC dysfunction may lead to disinhibition of amygdala causing high anxiety levels. γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) inter-neurons within vmPFC shape the information flow to amygdala. Thus, we hypothesize that GABA content within vmPFC could be relevant to trait anxiety. Forty-three healthy volunteers aged between 20 and 88 years were assessed for trait anxiety with the Subscale-2 of the State-Trait-Anxiety Inventory (STAI-Y2) and were studied with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to investigate GABA and Glx (glutamate+glutamine) contents within vmPFC. Total creatine (tCr) was used as internal reference. Partial correlations assessed the association between metabolite levels and STAI-Y2 scores, removing the effect of possible nuisance factors including age, educational level, volumes of gray matter and white matter within magnetic resonance spectroscopy voxel. We observed a positive relationship between GABA/tCr and STAI-Y2 scores. No significant relationships were found between Glx/tCr and STAI-Y2 and between tCr/water and STAI-Y2. No differences were found between males and females as regards to age, STAI-Y2, GABA/tCr, Glx/tCr, tCr/water, gray matter and white matter volumes. We suggest a close relationship between GABA content within vmPFC and trait anxiety providing new insights in the physiology of emotional brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)758-766
Number of pages9
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016


  • Anxiety
  • Glutamate
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex
  • γ-aminobutyric acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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