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Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), we have demonstrated regional abnormalities in cortical γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate in medication-free recovered depressed patients. It is unclear whether these changes represent an underlying trait vulnerability to depression, or an after-effect of episodes of illness or its treatment. We sought to examine this question by examining a group of high-risk, never-depressed, individuals. We used MRS to measure GABA and glutamate in parieto-occipital cortex in young people (ages 16-21 yr) with a family history of parental depression (n=24) but no personal history of illness and a control group without a history of depression in any first-degree relative (n=28). Participants with a parental history of depression had significantly higher levels of glutamate than controls in parieto-occipital cortex (F₁,₄₇=5.5, p=0.02). These findings suggest that abnormalities in glutamate neurotransmission may reflect a trait marker of vulnerability to depression.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Neuropsychopharmacol

Publication Date





255 - 259


Adolescent, Cerebral Cortex, Depression, Depressive Disorder, Depressive Disorder, Major, Family, Female, Glutamic Acid, Glutamine, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Male, Occipital Lobe, Risk Factors, Young Adult, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid