Plasma GABA levels correlate with aggressiveness in relatives of patients with unipolar depressive disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2001 Mar 25;101(2):131-6. doi: 10.1016/s0165-1781(01)00220-7.


Plasma gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels are decreased in some patients with depression, mania and alcoholism. Medications which increase plasma GABA improve symptoms of mood disorders and can decrease aggression. We examined the relationship between plasma GABA and aggressiveness on the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory in 77 psychiatrically healthy adults. In subjects selected for having a first-degree relative with primary unipolar depressive disorder (FH+, n=33), plasma GABA was negatively correlated with aggressiveness (beta=-0.338, P=0.036), as was age (beta=-0.483, P=0.005). A relationship between plasma GABA levels and aggressiveness was not observed in subjects with no such family history (FH-, n=44). Moreover, FH+ subjects had significantly lower plasma GABA concentrations than FH- subjects. These data suggest that low GABA levels may correlate with some aspects of aggressiveness and may be genetically regulated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / blood
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid