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Metab Brain Dis. 2015 Apr;30(2):367-79. doi: 10.1007/s11011-014-9560-1. Epub 2014 May 13.

GABA receptors in brain development, function, and injury.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, 53706, USA.


This review presents a brief overview of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system in the developing and mature central nervous system (CNS) and its potential connections to pathologies of the CNS. γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a major neurotransmitter expressed from the embryonic stage and throughout life. At an early developmental stage, GABA acts in an excitatory manner and is implicated in many processes of neurogenesis, including neuronal proliferation, migration, differentiation, and preliminary circuit-building, as well as the development of critical periods. In the mature CNS, GABA acts in an inhibitory manner, a switch mediated by chloride/cation transporter expression and summarized in this review. GABA also plays a role in the development of interstitial neurons of the white matter, as well as in oligodendrocyte development. Although the underlying cellular mechanisms are not yet well understood, we present current findings for the role of GABA in neurological diseases with characteristic white matter abnormalities, including anoxic-ischemic injury, periventricular leukomalacia, and schizophrenia. Development abnormalities of the GABAergic system appear particularly relevant in the etiology of schizophrenia. This review also covers the potential role of GABA in mature brain injury, namely transient ischemia, stroke, and traumatic brain injury/post-traumatic epilepsy.

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