The neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate have been suggested to play a role in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) through an imbalance between cortical inhibition and excitation. This effect has been highlighted in higher brain areas, such as the prefrontal cortex, but has also been posited in basic sensory cortices. Based on this, magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) was used to investigate potential changes to GABA+ and glutamate+glutamine (Glx) concentrations within the occipital cortex in MDD patients (n = 25) and healthy controls (n = 25). No difference in occipital GABA+ or Glx concentrations, nor in the GABA+/Glx ratio, was found between groups. An analysis of an extended MDD patient and unmatched control dataset (n = 90) found no correlation between metabolite concentrations and depressive symptoms. These results were integrated with prior studies through metabolite-specific meta-analyses, revealing no difference in occipital GABA and Glx concentrations between patients and controls. An effect of publication year on GABA group differences was found, suggesting that previously reported results may have been artifacts of measurement accuracy. Taken together, our results suggest that, contrary to some prior reports, MRS measurements of occipital GABA and Glx do not differ between MDD patients and controls.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111238
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Publication statusPublished - Feb 28 2021


  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Meta-analysis
  • Mood disorders
  • Visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Occipital gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate-glutamine alterations in major depressive disorder: An mrs study and meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this