GABA, resting-state connectivity and the developing brain

Neonatology. 2014;106(2):149-55. doi: 10.1159/000362433. Epub 2014 Jun 26.


Background: Preclinical data demonstrate that gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) interneurons initiate connectivity in the developing brain.

Objectives: The goal of this study was to compare GABA concentration and its relationship to functional connectivity in the brains of term and preterm infants at term-equivalent age.

Methods: Infants received both magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans at term-equivalent age. Whole brain functional connectivity MRI data using intrinsic connectivity distribution maps were compared to identify areas with differences in resting-state functional connectivity between the preterm and term control groups. MRS measured concentrations of GABA, glutamate, N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) and choline; NAA/choline was then calculated for comparison between the 2 groups.

Results: Preterm infants had lower right frontal GABA and glutamate concentrations than term controls and showed a significantly different relationship between connectivity and GABA concentration in the right frontal lobe. Preterm infants had a positive correlation between GABA concentration and connectivity, while term controls demonstrated a negative correlation between these two developmentally regulated parameters.

Conclusion: These results suggest that regional GABA concentrations are associated with normal and altered neonatal resting-state connectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Development*
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Pilot Projects
  • Signal Transduction
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Aspartic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Choline