Glutamate and GABA contributions to medial prefrontal cortical activity to emotion: Implications for mood disorders

Ana D. Stan, Claudiu V. Schirda, Michele A. Bertocci, Genna M. Bebko, Dina M. Kronhaus, Haris A. Aslam, Eduard J. LaBarbara, Costin Tanase, Jeanette C. Lockovich, Myrna H. Pollock, Richelle S. Stiffler, Mary L. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (MdPFC) and anterior cingulate cortices (ACC) play a critical role in implicit emotion regulation; however the understanding of the specific neurotransmitters that mediate such role is lacking. In this study, we examined relationships between MdPFC concentrations of two neurotransmitters, glutamate and γ-amino butyric acid (GABA), and BOLD activity in ACC during performance of an implicit facial emotion-processing task. Twenty healthy volunteers, aged 20-35 years, were scanned while performing an implicit facial emotion-processing task, whereby presented facial expressions changed from neutral to one of the four emotions: happy, anger, fear, or sad. Glutamate concentrations were measured before and after the emotion-processing task in right MdPFC using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). GABA concentrations were measured in bilateral MdPFC after the emotion-processing task. Multiple regression models were run to determine the relative contribution of glutamate and GABA concentration, age, and gender to BOLD signal in ACC to each of the four emotions. Multiple regression analyses revealed a significant negative correlation between MdPFC GABA concentration and BOLD signal in subgenual ACC (p<0.05, corrected) to sad versus shape contrast. For the anger versus shape contrast, there was a significant negative correlation between age and BOLD signal in pregenual ACC (p<0.05, corrected) and a positive correlation between MdPFC glutamate concentration (pre-task) and BOLD signal in pregenual ACC (p<0.05, corrected). Our findings are the first to provide insight into relationships between MdPFC neurotransmitter concentrations and ACC BOLD signal, and could further understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying emotion processing in healthy and mood-disordered individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-260
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 30 2014


  • Anger
  • Anterior cingulate
  • Emotion processing
  • GABA
  • Glutamate
  • Sadness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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