Measurement of regional variation of GABA in the human brain by optimized point-resolved spectroscopy at 7 T in vivo

NMR Biomed. 2014 Oct;27(10):1167-75. doi: 10.1002/nbm.3170. Epub 2014 Aug 4.


The (1)H resonances of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the human brain in vivo are extensively overlapped with the neighboring abundant resonances of other metabolites and remain indiscernible in short-TE MRS at 7 T. Here we report that the GABA resonance at 2.28 ppm can be fully resolved by means of echo time optimization of a point-resolved spectroscopy (PRESS) scheme. Following numerical simulations and phantom validation, the subecho times of PRESS were optimized at (TE, TE2) = (31, 61) ms for detection of GABA, glutamate (Glu), glutamine (Gln), and glutathione (GSH). The in vivo feasibility of the method was tested in several brain regions in nine healthy subjects. Spectra were acquired from the medial prefrontal, left frontal, medial occipital, and left occipital brain and analyzed with LCModel. Following the gray and white matter (GM and WM) segmentation of T1 -weighted images, linear regression of metabolite estimates was performed against the fractional GM contents. The GABA concentration was estimated to be about seven times higher in GM than in WM. GABA was overall higher in frontal than in occipital brain. Glu was about twice as high in GM as in WM in both frontal and occipital brain. Gln was significantly different between frontal GM and WM while being similar between occipital GM and WM. GSH did not show significant dependence on tissue content. The signals from N-acetylaspartylglutamate were clearly resolved, giving the concentration more than 10 times higher in WM than in GM. Our data indicate that the PRESS TE = 92 ms method provides an effective means for measuring GABA and several challenging J-coupled spin metabolites in human brain at 7 T.

Keywords: 1H MRS; 7 T; GABA; gray matter; human brain; point-resolved spectroscopy (PRESS); white matter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / chemistry*
  • Choline / analysis
  • Computer Simulation
  • Creatine / analysis
  • Dipeptides / analysis
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / chemistry
  • Glutamates / analysis
  • Glutamine / analysis
  • Glutathione / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe / chemistry
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / chemistry
  • Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Protons
  • White Matter / chemistry
  • Young Adult
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analysis*


  • Dipeptides
  • Glutamates
  • Protons
  • Glutamine
  • isospaglumic acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glutathione
  • Creatine
  • Choline