Cortical gamma-aminobutyric acid concentrations in depressed patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy

Biol Psychiatry. 2006 Feb 1;59(3):284-6. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.07.015. Epub 2005 Sep 1.


Background: Reduced gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentrations have been reported in plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, and cortex of depressed subjects. Treatment with both electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) increased occipital cortex GABA concentrations in prior studies. The purpose of this study was to determine whether treatment of major depression with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) produces similar changes in cortical GABA concentrations.

Methods: Occipital cortex GABA concentrations were measured in eight subjects with Major Depressive Disorder prior to and after a course of CBT using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Results: The effect of CBT on occipital cortex GABA content was different than that seen for ECT and SSRI medication treatment of depressed patients.

Conclusions: This preliminary finding suggests CBT has a less robust effect on cortical GABA content than ECT and SSRI treatments and might indicate a difference between the mechanisms of antidepressant action.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe / metabolism*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Statistics as Topic
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid