An Emerging Circuit Pharmacology of GABAA Receptors

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2018 Aug;39(8):710-732. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2018 Jun 11.


In the past 20 years we have learned a great deal about GABAA receptor (GABAAR) subtypes, and which behaviors are regulated or which drug effects are mediated by each subtype. However, the question of where GABAARs involved in specific drug effects and behaviors are located in the brain remains largely unanswered. We review here recent studies taking a circuit pharmacology approach to investigate the functions of GABAAR subtypes in specific brain circuits controlling fear, anxiety, learning, memory, reward, addiction, and stress-related behaviors. The findings of these studies highlight the complexity of brain inhibitory systems and the importance of taking a subtype-, circuit-, and neuronal population-specific approach to develop future therapeutic strategies using cell type-specific drug delivery.

Keywords: GABA(A) receptor; addiction; anxiety; depression; hippocampus; memory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists / pharmacology
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA-A / classification*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology*


  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Benzodiazepines
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid