The major excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, glutamate (Glu) and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), respectively, are implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate (NAAG), a neuropeptide that modulates the Glu system, may also be altered in schizophrenia. This study investigated GABA, Glu + glutamine (Glx), and NAAG levels in younger and older subjects with schizophrenia. Forty-one subjects, 21 with chronic schizophrenia and 20 healthy controls, participated in this study. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H-MRS) was used to measure GABA, Glx, and NAAG levels in the anterior cingulate (AC) and centrum semiovale (CSO) regions. NAAG in the CSO was higher in younger schizophrenia subjects compared with younger control subjects. The opposite pattern was observed in the older groups. Glx was reduced in the schizophrenia group irrespective of age group and brain region. There was a trend for reduced AC GABA in older schizophrenia subjects compared with older control subjects. Poor attention performance was correlated to lower AC GABA levels in both groups. Higher levels of CSO NAAG were associated with greater negative symptom severity in schizophrenia. These results provide support for altered glutamatergic and GABAergic function associated with illness course and cognitive and negative symptoms in schizophrenia. The study also highlights the importance of studies that combine MRS measurements of NAAG, GABA, and Glu for a more comprehensive neurochemical characterization of schizophrenia.
Keywords: GABA; MRS; NAAG; glutamate; neuroimaging; schizophrenia.