Glutamate/GABA+ ratio is associated with the psychosocial domain of autistic and schizotypal traits Academic Article uri icon


  • The autism and schizophrenia spectra overlap to a large degree in the social and interpersonal domains. Similarly, abnormal excitatory glutamate and inhibitory γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter concentrations have been reported for both spectra, with the interplay of these neurotransmitters important for cortical excitation to inhibition regulation. This study investigates whether these neurotransmitter abnormalities are specific to the shared symptomatology, and whether the degree of abnormality increases with increasing symptom severity. Hence, the relationship between the glutamate/GABA ratio and autism and schizophrenia spectrum traits in an unmedicated, subclinical population was investigated.A total of 37 adults (19 female, 18 male) aged 18-38 years completed the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ), and participated in the resting state proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study in which sequences specific for quantification of glutamate and GABA+ concentration were applied to a right and left superior temporal voxel.There were significant, moderate, positive relationships between right superior temporal glutamate/GABA+ ratio and AQ, SPQ and AQ+SPQ total scores (p<0.05), SPQ subscales Social Anxiety, No Close Friend, Constricted Affect, Odd Behaviour, Odd Speech, Ideas of Reference and Suspiciousness, and AQ subscales Social Skills, Communication and Attention Switching (p<0.05); increased glutamate/GABA+ coinciding with higher scores on these subscales. Only the relationships between glutamate/GABA+ ratio and Social Anxiety, Constricted Affect, Social Skills and Communication survived multiple comparison correction (p< 0.004). Left superior temporal glutamate/GABA+ ratio reduced with increasing restricted imagination (p<0.05).These findings demonstrate evidence for an association between excitatory/inhibitory neurotransmitter concentrations and symptoms that are shared between the autism and schizophrenia spectra.

publication date

  • 2017

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