Regional Differences in Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid and Glutamate Concentrations in the Healthy Newborn Brain

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



AJNR. American journal of neuroradiology








BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate system disruptions may underlie neonatal brain injury. However, in vivo investigations are challenged by the need for special H-MR spectroscopy sequences for the reliable measurement of the neurotransmitters in this population. We used -edited H-MR spectroscopy (Mescher-Garwood point-resolved spectroscopy) to quantify regional in vivo gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate concentrations during the early postnatal period in healthy neonates. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We prospectively enrolled healthy neonates and acquired Mescher-Garwood point-resolved spectroscopy spectra on a 3T MR imaging scanner from voxels located in the cerebellum, the right basal ganglia, and the right frontal lobe. CSF-corrected metabolite concentrations were compared for regional variations and cross-sectional temporal trends with advancing age. RESULTS: Fifty-eight neonates with acceptable spectra acquired at postmenstrual age of 39.1 (SD, 1.3) weeks were included for analysis. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (+ macromolecule) (2.56 [SD, 0.1]) i.u., glutamate (3.80 [SD, 0.2]), Cho, and mIns concentrations were highest in the cerebellum, whereas NAA (6.72 [SD, 0.2]), NAA/Cho, Cr/Cho, and Glx/Cho were highest in the basal ganglia. Frontal gamma-aminobutyric acid (1.63 [SD, 0.1]), Glx (4.33 [SD, 0.3]), Cr (3.64 [SD, 0.2]), and Cho concentrations were the lowest among the ROIs. Glx, NAA, and Cr demonstrated a significant adjusted increase with postmenstrual age (β = 0.2-0.35), whereas gamma-aminobutyric acid and Cho did not. CONCLUSIONS: We report normative regional variations and temporal trends of in vivo gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate concentrations reflecting the functional and maturational status of 3 distinct brain regions of the neonate. These measures will serve as important normative values to allow early detection of subtle neurometabolic alterations in high-risk neonates.