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GABA concentrations in the human anterior cingulate cortex predict negative BOLD responses in fMRI


The human anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is part of the default-mode network that shows predominant negative blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) responses in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We combined fMRI during emotional processing and resting-state magnetic resonance spectroscopy measurements and observed that the concentration of GABA in the ACC specifically correlated with the amount of negative BOLD responses in the very same region. Our findings show that default-mode network negative BOLD responses during emotions are mediated by GABA.

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Figure 1: Negative BOLD responses in the default-mode network during emotional conditions.
Figure 2: Correlation between GABA concentration and negative BOLD responses in the ACC.


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We acknowledge the contribution by C. Matthiä who helped in data transfer and made some suggestions to the discussion. The study was supported by a Heisenberg grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG, 304/4-1 to G.N.), the Swiss National Research Foundation (3100A0-100830) to G.N., P.B. and H.B., a grant from the Research Foundation of the University of Zurich, Organon Switzerland to G.N. and H.B., a grant from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (SEP) and Philips Medical Systems, Best, NL, to P.B., and a grant from the Salus Foundation and the Hope for Depression Research Foundation (HDRF) to G.N.

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Authors and Affiliations



G.N. designed the study, co-analyzed the data, wrote the manuscript and supervised the whole project. M.W. analyzed the fMRI-MRS correlation data in collaboration with G.N., S.G. and H.B., carried out the fMRI experiments and analyzed the fMRI data. R.F.S. designed and implemented the software for MRS data acquisition and for MRS data analysis. R.F.S. and J.B. carried out the MRS experiments. U.D. and A.H. supervised the MRS part of the study, and contributed to the interpretation of the data and preparation of the manuscript. P.B. took the technical and financial responsibility for the combined MRI-MRS study and revised the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Georg Northoff.

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Northoff, G., Walter, M., Schulte, R. et al. GABA concentrations in the human anterior cingulate cortex predict negative BOLD responses in fMRI. Nat Neurosci 10, 1515–1517 (2007).

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