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Science. 2003 May 2;300(5620):812-5.

GABA and its agonists improved visual cortical function in senescent monkeys.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT 84132, USA.


Human cerebral cortical function degrades during old age. Much of this change may result from a degradation of intracortical inhibition during senescence. We used multibarreled microelectrodes to study the effects of electrophoretic application of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the GABA type a (GABAa) receptor agonist muscimol, and the GABAa receptor antagonist bicuculline, respectively, on the properties of individual V1 cells in old monkeys. Bicuculline exerted a much weaker effect on neuronal responses in old than in young animals, confirming a degradation of GABA-mediated inhibition. On the other hand, the administration of GABA and muscimol resulted in improved visual function. Many treated cells in area V1 of old animals displayed responses typical of young cells. The present results have important implications for the treatment of the sensory, motor, and cognitive declines that accompany old age.

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