Concentrations of Cortical GABA and Glutamate in Young Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Tamar Kolodny, Michael Paul Schallmo, Jennifer Gerdts, Richard A.E. Edden, Raphael A. Bernier, Scott O. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The balance of excitation and inhibition in neural circuits is hypothesized to be increased in autism spectrum disorder, possibly mediated by altered signaling of the inhibitory neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), yet empirical evidence in humans is inconsistent. We used edited magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to quantify signals associated with both GABA and the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate in multiple regions of the sensory and sensorimotor cortex, including primary visual, auditory, and motor areas in adult individuals with autism and in neurotypical controls. Despite the strong a priori hypothesis of reduced GABA in autism spectrum disorder, we found no group differences in neurometabolite concentrations in any of the examined regions and no correlations of MRS measure with psychophysical visual sensitivity or autism symptomatology. We demonstrate high data quality that is comparable across groups, with a relatively large sample of well-characterized participants, and use Bayesian statistics to corroborate the lack of any group differences. We conclude that levels of GABA and Glx (glutamate, glutamine, and glutathione) in the sensory and sensorimotor cortex, as measured with MRS at 3T, are comparable in adults with autism and neurotypical individuals. Autism Res 2020, 13: 1111-1129.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1111-1129
Number of pages19
JournalAutism Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • auditory cortex
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • glutamate
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • sensorimotor cortex
  • visual cortex
  • γ-aminobutyric acid

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • General Neuroscience


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