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Brain. 2013 Mar;136(Pt 3):918-25. doi: 10.1093/brain/aws368. Epub 2013 Feb 11.

GABA deficit in the visual cortex of patients with neurofibromatosis type 1: genotype-phenotype correlations and functional impact.

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  • 1IBILI, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Azinhaga de Santa Comba, 3000-548 Coimbra, Portugal.

Abstract

Alterations in the balance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission have been implicated in several neurodevelopmental disorders. Neurofibromatosis type 1 is one of the most common monogenic disorders causing cognitive deficits for which studies on a mouse model (Nfl(+/-)) proposed increased γ-aminobutyric acid-mediated inhibitory neurotransmission as the neural mechanism underlying these deficits. To test whether a similar mechanism translates to the human disorder, we used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure γ-aminobutyric acid levels in the visual cortex of children and adolescents with neurofibromatosis type 1 (n = 20) and matched control subjects (n = 26). We found that patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 have significantly lower γ-aminobutyric acid levels than control subjects, and that neurofibromatosis type 1 mutation type significantly predicted cortical γ-aminobutyric acid. Moreover, functional imaging of the visual cortex indicated that blood oxygen level-dependent signal was correlated with γ-aminobutyric acid levels both in patients and control subjects. Our results provide in vivo evidence of γ-aminobutyric acidergic dysfunction in neurofibromatosis type 1 by showing a reduction in γ-aminobutyric acid levels in human patients. This finding is relevant to understand the physiological profile of the disorder and has implications for the identification of targets for therapeutic strategies.

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