More GABA Receptors in Brain Linked to Pain, Impaired Function, Study Shows

More GABA Receptors in Brain Linked to Pain, Impaired Function, Study Shows
Women with fibromyalgia (FM) have higher concentrations in the brain of a nerve cell receptor, called GABAA, that's involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. These concentrations were associated with pain symptoms and impaired function, a study reveals. The findings, obtained through positron emission tomography or PET scans, suggest that GABA signaling — one of the most important transmission routes between nerve cells — is altered in the brain in people with FM. This alteration could possibly cause an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neuronal signals. The study, "Up-regulation of cortical GABAA receptor concentration in fibromyalgia," was published in the journal Pain. Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic disease characterized by widespread pain, hypersensitivity, and cognitive and affective changes. An increase in the excitatory versus inhibitory signals in the brain has been suggested to contribute to FM. Brain analysis by magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) revealed higher levels of glutamate, and reduced amounts of GABA, in certain regions of the brain cortex in people with FM. Both of these changes have been associated with increased sensitivity to pain. Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter — a molecule used by nerve cells to pass signals to other cells. It transmits excitatory signals, meaning it stimulates nerve cells to send nerve impulses. In contrast, GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the nervous system. Its principal role is to block the transmission of nerve impulses, to avoid too much activity of the system, which can be harmful. Despite the available evidence, it remains unclear if the excitatory and inhibitory pathways of neurotransmission — the transmission of nerve impulses between ne
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