Low cerebrospinal fluid concentration of free gamma-aminobutyric acid in startle disease

Lancet. 1992 Jul 11;340(8811):80-1. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(92)90398-m.


The pathophysiology of startle disease (hyperekplexia) is unknown. Hyperactivity of the brainstem reticular formation has been suggested as a cause. We report a newborn infant with classic features of startle disease in whom cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) were substantially lower than normal during the first weeks of life. She improved greatly on clonazepam treatment. We suggest that the signs of this disorder may be due to a genetic defect or to delayed maturation resulting in low CSF GABA.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clonazepam / administration & dosage
  • Clonazepam / therapeutic use
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Phenobarbital / administration & dosage
  • Phenobarbital / therapeutic use
  • Pyridoxine / administration & dosage
  • Pyridoxine / therapeutic use
  • Reflex, Startle*
  • Spasms, Infantile / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Spasms, Infantile / diagnosis
  • Spasms, Infantile / drug therapy
  • Syndrome
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / cerebrospinal fluid*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Clonazepam
  • Pyridoxine
  • Phenobarbital