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Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019 Mar;29(3):365-375. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2018.12.015. Epub 2018 Dec 29.

Nucleus accumbens neurochemistry in human anxiety: A 7 T 1H-MRS study.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.
2
Animal Imaging and Technology Core, Center for Biomedical Imaging (CIBM), Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland.
3
Laboratory of Functional and Metabolic Imaging, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland; Department of Radiology, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland; Department of Radiology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
4
Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. Electronic address: carmen.sandi@epfl.ch.

Abstract

Individual differences in anxiety provide a differential predisposition to develop neuropsychiatric disorders. The neurochemical underpinnings of anxiety remain elusive, particularly in deep structures, such as the nucleus accumbens (NAc) whose involvement in anxiety is being increasingly recognized. We examined the associations between the neurochemical profile of human NAc metabolites involved in neural excitation and inhibition and inter-individual variation in temperamental and situational anxiety. Twenty-seven healthy 20-30 years-old human males were phenotyped with questionnaires for state and trait anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, STAI), social anxiety (Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale), negative mood (Beck Depression Inventory, BDI) and fatigue (Mental and Physical State Energy and Fatigue Scales, SEF). Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) at 7 Tesla (7T), we measured metabolite levels for glutamate, glutamine, GABA and taurine in the NAc. Salivary cortisol was also measured. Strikingly, trait anxiety was negatively associated with NAc taurine content. Perceived situational stress was negatively associated with NAc GABA, while positively with the Glu/GABA ratio. No correlation was observed between NAc taurine or GABA and other phenotypic variables examined (i.e., state anxiety, social anxiety, negative mood, or cortisol), except for a negative correlation between taurine and state physical fatigue. This first 7T study of NAc neurochemistry shows relevant metabolite associations with individual variation in anxiety traits and situational stress and state anxiety measurements. The novel identified association between NAc taurine levels and trait anxiety may pave the way for clinical studies aimed at identifying new treatments for anxiety and related disorders.

KEYWORDS:

Anxiety; GABA; Nucleus accumbens; Personality; Stress; Taurine

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