Cerebrospinal fluid GABA concentration: relationship with impulsivity and history of suicidal behavior, but not aggression, in human subjects

J Psychiatr Res. 2009 Jan;43(4):353-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.04.004. Epub 2008 May 19.


The objective of this study was to assess the relationship between cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and measures of impulsivity and related behaviors (aggression and suicidality) in healthy volunteer and personality disordered subjects. CSF GABA levels, and measures of impulsivity, aggression, and history of suicidal behavior were obtained by morning lumbar puncture in 57 healthy volunteer subjects and in subjects with personality disorder. CSF GABA levels were not found to correlate with measures of aggression but were found to correlate directly with measures of impulsivity; e.g., a composite measure of impulsivity in all subjects (r=0.35, df=46, P=0.015) and in personality disordered subjects examined separately (r=0.39, df=30, P=0.029). In the personality disorder group, CSF GABA levels were higher among subjects with a history of suicidal behavior compared with those without this history. These data suggest that central GABAergic function correlates directly with impulsiveness and history of suicidal behavior, but not aggressiveness, in personality disordered subjects. This may be consistent with observations that high doses of benzodiazepines can lead to "behavioral disinhibition" in human subjects. Further work assessing this and other aspects of the central GABA system in personality disordered subjects are warranted.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Impulsive Behavior / diagnosis
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Male
  • Personality Disorders / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / cerebrospinal fluid*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid