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1.  The Relationship between Intelligence and Anxiety: An Association with Subcortical White Matter Metabolism 
We have demonstrated in a previous study that a high degree of worry in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) correlates positively with intelligence and that a low degree of worry in healthy subjects correlates positively with intelligence. We have also shown that both worry and intelligence exhibit an inverse correlation with certain metabolites in the subcortical white matter. Here we re-examine the relationships among generalized anxiety, worry, intelligence, and subcortical white matter metabolism in an extended sample. Results from the original study were combined with results from a second study to create a sample comprised of 26 patients with GAD and 18 healthy volunteers. Subjects were evaluated using the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, the Wechsler Brief intelligence quotient (IQ) assessment, and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (1H-MRSI) to measure subcortical white matter metabolism of choline and related compounds (CHO). Patients with GAD exhibited higher IQ’s and lower metabolite concentrations of CHO in the subcortical white matter in comparison to healthy volunteers. When data from GAD patients and healthy controls were combined, relatively low CHO predicted both relatively higher IQ and worry scores. Relatively high anxiety in patients with GAD predicted high IQ whereas relatively low anxiety in controls also predicted high IQ. That is, the relationship between anxiety and intelligence was positive in GAD patients but inverse in healthy volunteers. The collective data suggest that both worry and intelligence are characterized by depletion of metabolic substrate in the subcortical white matter and that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.
PMCID: PMC3269637  PMID: 22347183
intelligence; anxiety; white matter; choline; magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging
2.  Effect of Milnacipran Treatment on Ventricular Lactate in Fibromyalgia: A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial 
Milnacipran, a serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), is FDA-approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia (FM). This report presents the results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of milnacipran conducted to test the hypotheses that (a) similar to patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, FM patients have elevated ventricular lactate at baseline; (b) 8 weeks of treatment with milnacipran will lower ventricular lactate levels compared to both baseline and to placebo; and (c) treatment with milnacipran will improve attention and executive function in the Attention Network Test compared to placebo. In addition, we examined the results for potential associations between ventricular lactate and pain. Baseline ventricular lactate measured by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (1H MRSI) was found to be higher in FM than in healthy controls [F(1,37) = 22.11; p < 0.0001, partial η2 = 0.37]. Milnacipran reduced pain in FM relative to placebo but had no effect on cognitive processing. At study end, ventricular lactate in the milnacipran-treated group decreased significantly compared to baseline and to placebo [F1,18 = 8.18, p = 0.01, partial η2 = 0.31]. A significantly larger proportion of milnacipran-treated patients showed decreases in both ventricular lactate and in pain than placebo [p = 0.03]. These results suggest that 1H MRSI measurements of lactate may serve as a potential biomarker for therapeutic response in FM and that milnacipran may act, at least in part, by targeting the brain response to glial activation and neuroinflammation.
PMCID: PMC4630071  PMID: 26335989
widespread pain; SNRI; brain function; magnetic resonance spectroscopy
3.  In vivo effects of ketamine on glutamate-glutamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Proof of concept 
Psychiatry research  2015;233(2):141-147.
We previously reported the rapid and robust clinical effects of ketamine versus saline infusions in a proof-of-concept crossover trial in unmedicated adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This study examined the concurrent neurochemical effects of ketamine versus saline infusions using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) during the clinical proof-of-concept crossover trial. Levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and the excitatory neurochemicals glutamate+glutamine (Glx) were acquired in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), a region implicated in OCD pathology. Seventeen unmedicated OCD adults received two intravenous infusions at least 1 week apart, one of saline and one of ketamine, while lying supine in a 3.0 T GE MR scanner. The order of each infusion pair was randomized. Levels of GABA and Glx were measured in the MPFC before, during, and after each infusion and normalized to water (W). A mixed effects model found that MPFC GABA/W significantly increased over time in the ketamine compared with the saline infusion. In contrast, there were no significant differences in Glx/W between the ketamine and saline infusions. Together with earlier evidence of low cortical GABA in OCD, our findings suggest that models of OCD pathology should consider the role of GABAergic abnormalities in OCD symptomatology.
PMCID: PMC4715460  PMID: 26104826
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); Ketamine; Glutamate-glutamine; Gamma-aminobutyric acid; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Medial prefrontal cortex
4.  GABA level, gamma oscillation, and working memory performance in schizophrenia 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2014;4:531-539.
A relationship between working memory impairment, disordered neuronal oscillations, and abnormal prefrontal GABA function has been hypothesized in schizophrenia; however, in vivo GABA measurements and gamma band neural synchrony have not yet been compared in schizophrenia. This case–control pilot study (N = 24) compared baseline and working memory task-induced neuronal oscillations acquired with high-density electroencephalograms (EEGs) to GABA levels measured in vivo with magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Working memory performance, baseline GABA level in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and measures of gamma oscillations from EEGs at baseline and during a working memory task were obtained. A major limitation of this study is a relatively small sample size for several analyses due to the integration of diverse methodologies and participant compliance. Working memory performance was significantly lower for patients than for controls. During the working memory task, patients (n = 7) had significantly lower amplitudes in gamma oscillations than controls (n = 9). However, both at rest and across working memory stages, there were significant correlations between gamma oscillation amplitude and left DLPFC GABA level. Peak gamma frequency during the encoding stage of the working memory task (n = 16) significantly correlated with GABA level and working memory performance. Despite gamma band amplitude deficits in patients across working memory stages, both baseline and working memory-induced gamma oscillations showed strong dependence on baseline GABA levels in patients and controls. These findings suggest a critical role for GABA function in gamma band oscillations, even under conditions of system and cognitive impairments as seen in schizophrenia.
•We compared in vivo GABA measures and gamma band oscillations in schizophrenia.•Correlations between left DLPFC GABA and gamma amplitude were significant.•Peak gamma frequency significantly correlated with GABA and performance.•Patients had significantly lower amplitudes in gamma oscillations than controls.•Working memory performance was significantly lower for patients than for controls.
PMCID: PMC3989525  PMID: 24749063
Schizophrenia; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; GABA; Gamma oscillation; Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; Working memory
5.  Prefrontal Cortical GABA Abnormalities Are Associated With Reduced Hippocampal Volume In Major Depressive Disorder 
Hippocampal volume reduction has been related to treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and is hypothesized to reflect impaired amino-acid neurotransmission. To better understand the role of amino acid neurotransmission in hippocampal volume deficits, and subsequent resistance to treatment, this study investigated the relationship between hippocampal volumes and GABA levels in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), previously associated with TRD. Thirty-three medication-free major depressive disorder (MDD; 14 TRD and 19 non-TRD) and 26 healthy controls (HC) subjects were studied. Participants underwent high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to estimate hippocampal volume and proton MR spectroscopy (1H MRS) to measure ACC GABA levels. MDD patients, with known ACC GABA levels, were divided into two groups: MDD Low GABA and MDD High GABA. We found a significant reduction in hippocampal volume in the MDD Low GABA group compared to MDD High GABA (p < 0.001) and HC (p = 0.01). The relationship between hippocampal volume and cortical GABA was population (i.e. MDD group) and region specific (i.e. prefrontal cortex). Comparing TRD, non-TRD and HC groups, there was a main effect of group on hippocampal volume (p = 0.04), which post hoc analysis revealed as smaller hippocampal volume in TRD subjects than in non-TRD (p = 0.05) and HC groups (p = 0.03). No hippocampal volume differences between non-TRD and HC groups. The data provides insight into the role of prefrontal neurochemical deficits in the limbic structural abnormalities observed in MDD. In addition, it replicates the relationship between TRD and smaller hippocampal volumes.
PMCID: PMC4526377  PMID: 25983019
major depressive disorder (MDD); γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA); hippocampal volume; magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS); MRI; treatment resistant depression
6.  A Pilot In Vivo Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study of Amino Acid Neurotransmitter Response to Ketamine Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder 
Molecular psychiatry  2015;21(3):320-327.
The NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine can improve major depressive disorder (MDD) within hours. To evaluate the putative role of glutamatergic and GABAergic systems in ketamine’s antidepressant action, medial prefrontal cortical (mPFC) levels of glutamate + glutamine (Glx) and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) were measured before, during, and after ketamine administration using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Ketamine (0.5 mg/kg i.v.) was administered to eleven depressed patients with MDD. Glx and GABA mPFC responses were measured as ratios relative to unsuppressed voxel tissue water (W) successfully in 8/11 patients. Ten of 11 patients remitted (50% reduction in 24-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and total ≤ 10) within 230 minutes of commencing ketamine. mPFC Glx/W and GABA/W peaked at 37.8%±7.5% and 38.0%±9.1% above baseline in ~26 minutes. Mean areas under the curve (AUC) for Glx/W (p = 0.025) and GABA/W (p = 0.005) increased and correlated (r = 0.796; p=0.018). Clinical improvement correlated with 90-minute norketamine concentration (df=6, r=−0.78, p=0.023), but no other measures.
Rapid increases in Glx and GABA in MDD following ketamine administration support the postulated antidepressant role of glutamate and for the first time raises the question of GABA’s role in the antidepressant action of ketamine. These data support the hypothesis1 that ketamine administration may cause an initial increase in glutamate that potentially activates mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway via AMPA receptors, since ketamine blocks NMDA receptors. The role of the contemporaneous surge in GABA remains to be determined.2
PMCID: PMC4758914  PMID: 26283639
proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy; glutamate/glutamine (Glx); Major Depressive Disorder
7.  Elevated prefrontal cortex GABA in patients with major depressive disorder after TMS treatment measured with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy 
GABAergic and glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems are central to the pathophysiology of depression and are potential targets of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). We assessed the effect of 10-Hz rTMS over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) of patients with major depressive disorder on the levels of medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and the combined resonance of glutamate and glutamine (Glx) as assessed in vivo with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS).
Currently depressed individuals between the ages of 23 and 68 years participated in a 5-week naturalistic, open-label treatment study of rTMS, with 1H MRS measurements of MPFC GABA and Glx levels at baseline and following 5 weeks of the rTMS intervention. We applied rTMS pulses over the left DLPFC at 10 Hz and 80%–120% of motor threshold for 25 daily sessions, with each session consisting of 3000 pulses. We assessed therapeutic response using the 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD24). The GABA and Glx levels are expressed as ratios of peak areas relative to the area of the synchronously acquired and similarly fitted unsuppressed voxel water signal (W).
Twenty-three currently depressed individuals (7 men) participated in the study. GABA/W in the MPFC increased 13.8% (p = 0.013) in all depressed individuals. There were no significant effects of rTMS on Glx/W. GABA/W and Glx/W were highly correlated in severely depressed patients at baseline but not after TMS.
The primary study limitations are the open-label design and the inclusion of participants currently taking stable regimens of antidepressant medications.
These results implicate GABAergic and glutamatergic systems in the mechanism of action of rTMS for major depression, warranting further investigation in larger samples.
PMCID: PMC4853214  PMID: 26900793
8.  Assessment of glutamate in striatal subregions in obsessive-compulsive disorder with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy 
Psychiatry research  2015;232(1):65-70.
Glutamatergic signaling abnormalities in cortico-striatal circuits are hypothesized to lead to the repetitive thoughts and behaviors of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). To test this hypothesis, studies have used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) to measure glutamatergic compounds in the striatum of individuals with OCD. However, none has used methods that could measure glutamate minimally contaminated by glutamine and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in striatal subregions. Therefore, in this study, a proton MRS imaging (1H MRSI) technique with relatively high spatial resolution at 3.0 T was used to measure minimally contaminated glutamate levels in three striatal subregions (i.e., dorsal caudate, dorsal putamen, and ventral striatum) in 15 unmedicated adults with OCD and 16 matched healthy control subjects. No significant group differences in glutamate levels were found in any of the three striatal subregions. In contrast, a study in unmedicated pediatric OCD patients that measured glutamatergic compounds in the dorsal caudate by MRS at 1.5T found significant elevations. Further studies are warranted to assess whether these discrepant MRS findings are due to differences in subject age or MRS methodology, or potentially are associated with glutamatergic gene variants implicated in OCD.
PMCID: PMC4404189  PMID: 25715904
magnetic resonance spectroscopy; OCD; striatum; caudate
9.  Increased Ventricular Cerebrospinal Fluid Lactate in Depressed Adolescents 
Mitochondrial dysfunction has been increasingly examined as a potential pathogenic event in psychiatric disorders, although its role early in the course of major depressive disorder (MDD) is unclear. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate mitochondrial dysfunction in medication-free adolescents with MDD through in vivo measurements of neurometabolites using high-spatial resolution multislice/multivoxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Twenty-three adolescents with MDD and 29 healthy controls, ages 12–20, were scanned at 3T and concentrations of ventricular cerebrospinal fluid lactate, as well as N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), total creatine (tCr), and total choline (tCho) in the bilateral caudate, putamen, and thalamus were reported.
Adolescents with MDD exhibited increased ventricular lactate compared to healthy controls [F(1, 41) = 6.98, p = .01]. However, there were no group differences in the other neurometabolites. Dimensional analyses in the depressed group showed no relation between any of the neurometabolites and symptomatology, including anhedonia and fatigue.
Increased ventricular lactate in depressed adolescents suggests mitochondrial dysfunction may be present early in the course of MDD; however it is still not known whether the presence of mitochondrial dysfunction is a trait vulnerability of individuals predisposed to psychopathology or a state feature of the disorder. Therefore, there is a need for larger multimodal studies to clarify these chemical findings in the context of network function.
PMCID: PMC4831134  PMID: 26802978
proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy; adolescent depression; mitochondrial dysfunction
10.  Cortico-Striatal GABAergic and Glutamatergic Dysregulations in Subjects at Ultra-High Risk for Psychosis Investigated with Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy 
Dysregulations of the major inhibitory and excitatory amino neurotransmitter systems of γ-aminobutyric acid and glutamate, respectively, have been described in patients with schizophrenia. However, it is unclear whether these abnormalities are present in subjects at ultra-high risk for psychosis.
Twenty-three antipsychotic naïve subjects at ultra-high risk and 24 healthy control subjects, matched for age, sex, handedness, cigarette smoking, and parental education, underwent proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy scans in the dorsal caudate bilaterally and the medial prefrontal cortex at 3T. Levels of γ-aminobutyric acid and of the combined resonance of glutamate and glutamine (Glx) were obtained using the standard J-editing technique and expressed as peak area ratios relative to the synchronously acquired unsuppressed voxel water signal.
Higher levels of γ-aminobutyric acid (P<.001) and Glx (P=.007) were found in the dorsal caudate of the subjects at ultra-high risk than in the healthy controls. In the medial prefrontal cortex, likewise, both γ-aminobutyric acid (P=.03) and Glx (P=.006) levels were higher in the ultra-high risk group than in the healthy controls. No group differences were found for any of the other metabolites (N-acetylaspartate, total choline, or total creatine) in the 2 regions of interest.
This study presents the first evidence of abnormal elevations, in subjects at ultra-high risk, of γ-aminobutyric acid and Glx in 2 brain regions that have been implicated in the pathophysiology of psychosis, warranting longitudinal studies to assess whether these neurotransmitter abnormalities can serve as noninvasive biomarkers of conversion risk to psychosis as well as of illness progression and treatment response.
PMCID: PMC4815472  PMID: 26364273
GABA; glutamate; 1H MRS; ultra-high risk; psychosis; schizophrenia
11.  In vivo 1H MRS study of potential associations between glutathione, oxidative stress and anhedonia in major depressive disorder 
Neuroscience letters  2014;569:74-79.
Inflammation and oxidative stress are important mechanisms that have been implicated in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). Glutathione (GSH) is the most abundant antioxidant in human tissue, and a key index of antioxidant capacity and, hence, of oxidative stress. The aims of this investigation were to examine possible relationships between occipital GSH and dimensional measures of depressive symptom severity, including anhedonia – the reduced capacity to experience pleasure – and fatigue. We hypothesized that the magnitude of anhedonia and fatigue will be negatively correlated with occipital GSH levels in subjects with MDD and healthy controls (HC). Data for eleven adults with MDD and ten age- and sex-matched HC subjects were included in this secondary analysis of data from a previously published study. In vivo levels of GSH in a 3 cm × 3 cm × 2 cm voxel of occipital cortex were obtained by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) on a 3T MR system, using the standard J-edited spin-echo difference technique. Anhedonia was assessed by combining interest items from depression and fatigue rating scales, and fatigue by use of the multidimensional fatigue inventory. Across the full sample of participants, anhedonia severity and occipital GSH levels were negatively correlated (r = −0.55, p = 0.01). No associations were found between fatigue severity and GSH in this sample. These preliminary findings are potentially consistent with a pathophysiological role for GSH and oxidative stress in anhedonia and MDD. Larger studies in anhedonic depressed patients are indicated.
PMCID: PMC4108847  PMID: 24704328
Anhedonia; Glutathione; GSH; Oxidative stress; MRS
12.  Imaging glutamate homeostasis in cocaine addiction with the mGluR5 PET radiotracer [11C]ABP688 and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy 
Biological psychiatry  2013;75(2):165-171.
Preclinical studies demonstrate that glutamate homeostasis in the striatum is disrupted following cocaine exposure, including a decrease in metabotropic glutamate receptor type 5 (mGluR5) expression and reduced glutamate turnover. The goal of this study was to use imaging of the human brain to investigate alterations in the glutamate signaling in cocaine addiction.
Positron Emission tomography (PET) imaging with the radiotracer [11C]ABP688 was used to measure mGluR5 binding and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) was used to measure glutamate-glutamine levels in the striatum of cocaine addicted participants (n=15) compared to healthy controls (n=15). Following the scans, the cocaine addicted volunteers performed cocaine self-administration sessions in order to investigate the correlation between cocaine seeking behavior and mGluR5 receptor binding.
The results of the study showed that cocaine addiction was associated with a 20–22% reduction in [11C]ABP688 binding in the striatum. A secondary analysis of cortical and subcortical regions other than the striatum showed a similar reduction in [11C]ABP688 binding, suggesting that the decrease is widespread. No between-group differences were seen in the MRS measures of glutamate-glutamine in the left striatum. In addition, no correlation was seen between [11C]ABP688 binding in the striatum and the choice to self-administer cocaine.
Overall, these results show that long-term cocaine use is associated with a decrease in mGluR5 availability compared to matched healthy controls and suggests that this receptor may serve as a viable target for treatment development for this disorder.
PMCID: PMC4106018  PMID: 24035345
addiction; cocaine; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; positron emission tomography; metabotropic glutamate receptor 5; cocaine self-administration
13.  Early-life stress, corpus callosum development, hippocampal volumetrics, and anxious behavior in male nonhuman primates 
Psychiatry research  2011;192(1):37-44.
Male bonnet monkeys (Macaca radiata) were subjected to the Variable Foraging Demand (VFD) early stress paradigm as infants, MRI scans were completed an average of four years later, and behavioral assessments of anxiety and ex-vivo corpus callosum (CC) measurements were made when animals were fully matured. VFD rearing was associated with smaller CC size, CC measurements were found to correlate with fearful behavior in adulthood, and ex-vivo CC assessments showed high consistency with earlier MRI measures. Region of Interest (ROI) hippocampus and whole brain voxel- based morphometry assessments were also completed and VFD rearing was associated with reduced hippocampus and inferior and middle temporal gyri volumes. Animals were also characterized according to serotonin transporter genotype (5-HTTLPR), and the effect of genotype on imaging parameters was explored. The current findings highlight the importance of future research to better understand the effects of stress on brain development in multiple regions, including the corpus callosum, hippocampus, and other regions involved in emotion processing. Nonhuman primates provide a powerful model to unravel the mechanisms by which early stress and genetic makeup interact to produce long-term changes in brain development, stress reactivity, and risk for psychiatric disorders.
PMCID: PMC4090111  PMID: 21377844
stress; monkeys; corpus callosum; hippocampus; brain abnormalities; 5-HTTLPR
14.  A Pilot Study of Hippocampal Volume and N-Acetylaspartate (NAA) as Response Biomarkers in Riluzole-Treated Patients with GAD 
Anxiolytic benefit following chronic treatment with the glutamate modulating agent riluzole in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) was previously associated with differential changes in hippocampal NAA concentrations. Here, we investigated the association between hippocampal volume and hippocampal NAA in the context of riluzole response in GAD. Eighteen medication-free adult patients with GAD received 8-week of open-label riluzole. Ten healthy subjects served as a comparison group. Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy at baseline and at the end of Week 8. GAD patients who completed all interventions were classified as remitters (n = 7) or non-remitters (n = 6), based on final Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) scores ≤ 7. At baseline, GAD patients had a significant reduction in total hippocampal volume compared to healthy subjects (F(1,21) = 6.55, p = 0.02). This reduction was most pronounced in the remitters, compared to non-remitters and healthy subjects. Delta (final – baseline) hippocampal volume was positively correlated with delta NAA in GAD. This positive association was highly significant in the right hippocampus in GAD [r = 0.81, p = 0.002], with no significant association in healthy subjects [Fisher r-to-z p = 0.017]. Across all GAD patients, delta hippocampal volume was positively associated with improvement in HAM-A (rspearman = 0.62, p = 0.03). These preliminary findings support hippocampal NAA and volume as neural biomarkers substantially associated with therapeutic response to a glutamatergic drug.
PMCID: PMC3473175  PMID: 22739126
Riluzole; generalized anxiety disorder; biomarkers; glutamate; N-Acetylaspartate; hippocampal volume; magnetic resonance spectroscopy
15.  Increased ventricular lactate in chronic fatigue syndrome. III. Relationships to cortical glutathione and clinical symptoms implicate oxidative stress in disorder pathophysiology 
NMR in biomedicine  2012;25(9):1073-1087.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex illness, which is often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric illness. In two previous reports, using 1H MRSI, we found significantly higher levels of ventricular cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) lactate in patients with CFS relative to those with generalized anxiety disorder and healthy volunteers (HV), but not relative to those with major depressive disorder (MDD). In this third independent cross-sectional neuroimaging study, we investigated a pathophysiological model which postulated that elevations of CSF lactate in patients with CFS might be caused by increased oxidative stress, cerebral hypoperfusion and/or secondary mitochondrial dysfunction. Fifteen patients with CFS, 15 with MDD and 13 HVs were studied using the following modalities: (i) 1H MRSI to measure CSF lactate; (ii) single-voxel 1H MRS to measure levels of cortical glutathione (GSH) as a marker of antioxidant capacity; (iii) arterial spin labeling (ASL) MRI to measure regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF); and (iv) 31P MRSI to measure brain high-energy phosphates as objective indices of mitochondrial dysfunction. We found elevated ventricular lactate and decreased GSH in patients with CFS and MDD relative to HVs. GSH did not differ significantly between the two patient groups. In addition, we found lower rCBF in the left anterior cingulate cortex and the right lingual gyrus in patients with CFS relative to HVs, but rCBF did not differ between those with CFS and MDD. We found no differences between the three groups in terms of any high-energy phosphate metabolites. In exploratory correlation analyses, we found that levels of ventricular lactate and cortical GSH were inversely correlated, and significantly associated with several key indices of physical health and disability. Collectively, the results of this third independent study support a pathophysiological model of CFS in which increased oxidative stress may play a key role in CFS etiopathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3896084  PMID: 22281935
MRS; lactate; cerebrospinal fluid; glutathione; arterial spin labeling; cerebral blood flow; chronic fatigue syndrome; major depressive disorder
16.  Reduced hippocampal N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) as a biomarker for overweight☆ 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2014;4:326-335.
We previously demonstrated an inverse relationship between both dentate gyrus neurogenesis – a form of neuroplasticity – and expression of the antiapoptotic gene marker, BCL-2 and adult macaque body weight. We therefore explored whether a similar inverse correlation existed in humans between body mass index (BMI) and hippocampal N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), a marker of neuronal integrity and putatively, neuroplasticity. We also studied the relationship of a potentially neurotoxic process, worry, to hippocampal NAA in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and control subjects (CS).
We combined two previously studied cohorts of GAD and control subjects. Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging (1H MRSI) in medication-free patients with GAD (n = 29) and a matched healthy control group (n = 22), we determined hippocampal concentrations of (1) NAA (2) choline containing compounds (CHO), and (3) Creatine + phosphocreatine (CR). Data were combined from 1.5 T and 3 T scans by converting values from each cohort to z-scores. Overweight and GAD diagnosis were used as categorical variables while the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) and Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI) were used as dependent variables.
Overweight subjects (BMI ≥ 25) exhibited lower NAA levels in the hippocampus than normal-weight subjects (BMI < 25) (partial Eta-squared = 0.14) controlling for age, sex and psychiatric diagnosis, and the effect was significant for the right hippocampus in both GAD patients and control subjects. An inverse linear correlation was noted in all subjects between right hippocampal NAA and BMI. High scores on the PSWQ predicted low hippocampal NAA and CR. Both BMI and worry were independent inverse predictors of hippocampal NAA.
Overweight was associated with reduced NAA concentrations in the hippocampus with a strong effect size. Future mechanistic studies are warranted.
•Overweight people show reduced concentrations of hippocampal N-acetylaspartate (NAA).•Reduced NAA reflects reduced neuronal viability.•There is an inverse relationship between BMI and hippocampal NAA.•Worry scores are independently associated with lower NAA.•Generalized anxiety disorder did not show low hippocampal NAA.
PMCID: PMC3913836  PMID: 24501701
Body mass index; Generalized anxiety disorder; Penn State Worry Questionnaire; Neuronal integrity; Creatine (CR); Obesity
17.  Riluzole Effect on Occipital Cortex: A Structural and Spectroscopy Pilot Study 
Neuroscience letters  2012;530(1):103-107.
To investigate the mechanism underlying the anxiolytic properties of riluzole, a glutamate-modulating agent, we previously studied the effect of this drug on hippocampal N-Acetylaspartate (NAA) and volume in patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In the same cohort, we now extend our investigation to the occipital cortex, a brain region that was recently implicated in the antidepressant effect of riluzole.
Fourteen medication-free adult patients with GAD received 8-week of open-label riluzole. Ten healthy subjects served as a comparison group. The healthy group did not receive riluzole treatment. Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy at baseline and at the end of Week 8. Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) and Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) were used as the primary and secondary outcome measures, respectively.
At baseline, we found clusters of increased cortical thickness in the occipital region in GAD compared to healthy subjects. In the right hemisphere, eight weeks of treatment reduced occipital cortical thickness in the GAD group (t = 3.67, p = 0.004). In addition, the improvement in HAM-A scores was negatively correlated with post-treatment right occipital NAA (r = − 0.68, p = 0.008), and with changes in NAA levels (r = − 0.53, p = 0.051). In the left hemisphere, we found positive associations between changes in occipital cortical thickness and improvement in HAM-A (r = 0.60, p = 0.04) and PSWQ (r = 0.62, p = 0.03).
These pilot findings implicate the occipital cortex as a brain region associated with pathology and clinical improvement in GAD. In addition, the region specific effect of riluzole implies a distinct pathophysiology in the occipital cortex – compared to other, previously studied, frontolimbic brain structures.
PMCID: PMC3490039  PMID: 23043888
Riluzole; generalized anxiety disorder; biomarkers; glutamate; N-Acetylaspartate; occipital cortex; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; structural MRI
18.  Investigation of Cortical Glutamate–Glutamine and γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder by Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2012;37(12):2684-2692.
Glutamatergic abnormalities in corticostriatal brain circuits are thought to underlie obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Whether these abnormalities exist in adults with OCD is not clear. We used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) to test our hypothesis that unmedicated adults with OCD have reduced glutamate plus glutamine (Glx) levels in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) compared with healthy controls. Levels of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) were also explored. Twenty-four unmedicated adults with OCD and 22 matched healthy control subjects underwent 1H MRS scans at 3.0 T. Resonances of both Glx and GABA were obtained using the standard J-editing technique and assessed as ratios relative to voxel tissue water (W) in the MPFC (the region of interest) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) to explore the regional specificity of any finding. In the MPFC, Glx/W did not differ by diagnostic group (p=0.98) or sex (p=0.57). However, GABA/W was decreased in OCD (2.16±0.46 × 10−3) compared with healthy controls (2.43±0.45 × 10−3, p=0.045); moreover, age of OCD onset was inversely correlated with MPFC GABA/W (r=−0.50, p=0.015). MPFC GABA/W was higher in females than in males. In the DLPFC, there were no main effects of diagnosis or gender on Glx/W or GABA/W. These data indicate that unmedicated adults with OCD do not have Glx abnormalities in a MPFC voxel that includes the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex. However, they may have decreased MPFC GABA levels. How GABA abnormalities might contribute to corticostriatal dysfunction in OCD deserves further study.
PMCID: PMC3473334  PMID: 22850733
OCD; GABA; Glx; anterior cingulate cortex; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; medial prefrontal cortex; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; anterior cingulated cortex; biological psychiatry; GABA; glutamate; imaging; clinical or preclinical; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; OCD
19.  Anterior Cingulate Cortex γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Depressed Adolescents 
Archives of general psychiatry  2011;69(2):139-149.
Anhedonia, a core symptom of major depressive disorder (MDD) and highly variable among adolescents with MDD, may involve alterations in the major inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitter system of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
To test whether anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) GABA levels, measured by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, are decreased in adolescents with MDD. The associations of GABA alterations with the presence and severity of anhedonia were explored.
Case-control, cross-sectional study using single-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy at 3 T.
Two clinical research divisions at 2 teaching hospitals.
Twenty psychotropic medication-free adolescents with MDD (10 anhedonic, 12 female, aged 12–19 years) with episode duration of 8 weeks or more and 21 control subjects group matched for sex and age.
Main Outcome Measures
Anterior cingulate cortex GABA levels expressed as ratios relative to unsuppressed voxel tissue water (w) and anhedonia scores expressed as a continuous variable.
Compared with control subjects, adolescents with MDD had significantly decreased ACC GABA/w (t= 3.2; P<.003). When subjects with MDD were categorized based on the presence of anhedonia, only anhedonic patients had decreased GABA/w levels compared with control subjects (t=4.08; P<.001; PTukey<.001). Anterior cingulate cortex GABA/w levels were negatively correlated with anhedonia scores for the whole MDD group (r = −0.50; P = .02), as well as for the entire participant sample including the control subjects (r=−0.54; P<.001). Anterior cingulate cortex white matter was also significantly decreased in adolescents with MDD compared with controls (P=.04).
These findings suggest that GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, may be implicated in adolescent MDD and, more specifically, in those with anhedonia. In addition, use of a continuous rather than categorical scale of anhedonia, as in the present study, may permit greater specificity in evaluating this important clinical feature.
PMCID: PMC3711232  PMID: 21969419
Physiology & behavior  2011;103(5):535-539.
Obesity is associated with the insulin resistance metabolic syndrome, postulated to be mediated by stress-induced alterations within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. In adult bonnet macaques we examined relationships between components of the metabolic syndrome, hippocampal neurometabolic asymmetry, an indicator of negative affect, and juvenile cerebrospinal fluid (csf) corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) levels obtained after stress exposure associated with maternal food insecurity and in controls.
Eleven adult male monkeys (seven with early life stress) who had undergone csf-CRF analyses as juveniles had magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) of bilateral hippocampus, morphometry (body mass index, BMI; sagittal abdominal diameter, SAD) and determination of fasting plasma glucose and insulin as adults. Neurometabolite ratios included N-acetyl-aspartate as numerator (NAA; a marker of neuronal integrity) and choline (Cho; cell turnover) and creatine (Cr; reference analyte) as denominators.
Elevated juvenile csf-CRF levels positively predicted adult BMI and SAD and were associated with right > left shift of NAA ratio within the hippocampus. Adult visceral obesity and insulin level correlated with right > left shift in hippocampal NAA concentrations, controlling for age and denominator.
Juvenile csf-CRF levels, a neuropeptide associated with early life stress, predict adult visceral obesity and hippocampal asymmetry supporting the hypothesis that metabolic syndrome in adults may be related to early life stress. Furthermore, this study demonstrates asymmetrical hippocampal alterations related to obesity.
PMCID: PMC3107881  PMID: 21459102
Corticotropin releasing factor; hippocampus; stress; metabolic syndrome; food insecurity; obesity
21.  Early-Life Stress and Neurometabolites of the Hippocampus 
Brain research  2010;1358:191-199.
We tested the hypothesis that early life stress would persistently compromise neuronal viability of the hippocampus of the grown nonhuman primate. Neuronal viability was assessed through ascertainment of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) – an amino acid considered reflective of neuronal density/functional integrity – using in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI). The subjects reported herein represent a re-analysis of a sample of nineteen adult male bonnet macaques that had been reared in infancy under induced stress by maternal variable foraging demand (VFD) (N = 10) or control rearing conditions (N = 9). The MRSI spectral readings were recorded using a GE 1.5 Tesla machine under anesthesia. Relative NAA values were derived using NAA as numerator and both choline (Cho) or creatine (Cr) as denominators. Left medial temporal lobe (MTL) NAA/Cho but not NAA/Cr was decreased in VFD subjects versus controls. An MTL NAA/Cho ratio deficit remained significant when controlling for multiple confounding variables. Regression analyses suggested that the NAA/Choline finding was due to independently low left NAA and high left choline. Right MTL showed no rearing effects for NAA, but right NAA was positively related to body mass, irrespective of denominator. The current data indicate that decreased left MTL NAA/Cho may reflect low neuronal viability of the hippocampus following early life stress in VFD-reared versus normally-reared subjects. Given the importance of the hippocampus in stress-mediated toxicity, validation of these data using absolute quantification is suggested and correlative neurohistological studies of hippocampus are warranted.
PMCID: PMC2988576  PMID: 20713023
Early-Life Stress; Nonhuman Primate; Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy; Hippocampus; N-Acetyl-Aspartate; Brain laterality
22.  The role of early life stress in development of the anterior limb of the internal capsule in non-human primates 
Neuroscience letters  2010;480(2):93-96.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) may be effective in treating depression. Parental verbal abuse has been linked to decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter and reduced FA correlated with depression and anxiety scores. Utilizing a nonhuman primate model of mood and anxiety disorders following disrupted mother-infant attachment, we examined whether adverse rearing conditions lead to white matter impairment of the ALIC.
We examined white matter integrity using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) on a 3T-MRI. Twenty-one adult male Bonnet macaques participated in this study: 12 were reared under adverse [variable foraging demand (VFD)] conditions whereas 9 were reared under normative conditions. We examined ALIC, posterior limb of the internal capsule (PLIC) and occipital white matter.
VFD rearing was associated with significant reductions in FA in the ALIC with no changes evident in the PLIC or occipital cortex white matter.
Adverse rearing in monkeys persistently impaired frontal white matter tract integrity, a novel substrate for understanding affective susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC2951885  PMID: 20541590
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter integrity; variable foraging demand
23.  Diffusion tensor imaging in studying white matter complexity: A gap junction hypothesis 
Neuroscience letters  2010;475(3):161-164.
The role of the prefrontal cortex as an executive oversight of posterior brain regions raises the question of the extent to which the anterior regions of the brain interconnect with the posterior regions. The aim of this study is to test the complexity of rostral white matter tracts, which connect anterior and posterior brain regions, in comparison to caudal white matter tracts and the corpus callosum. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a modality that measures fractional anisotropy (FA). Higher white matter complexity could result in a decrease of FA, possibly through denser intersection of fiber tracts. DTI was used to determine regional FA in 9 healthy bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata). Four regions of interest were included: anterior and posterior limbs of the internal capsule, the occipital lobe white matter, and the corpus callosum. FA of the anterior limbs of the internal capsule was lowest compared to all other regions of interest (Newman-Keuls (N-K); p < 0.0001), whereas FA of the corpus callosum was highest (N-K; p < 0.0001). The posterior limbs of the internal capsule and the occipital white matter were not distinguishable but exhibited intermediate FA in comparison to the former (N-K; p < 0.0001) and the latter (N-K; p < 0.0001). The current study demonstrates that FA, a measure of white matter complexity, can vary markedly as a function of region of interest. Moreover, validation of these findings using neurohistological studies and replication in human samples appears warranted.
PMCID: PMC2862850  PMID: 20371267
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter; gap junctions; nonhuman primates; neuroimaging; neurodevelopment
24.  Amino Acid Neurotransmitters Assessed by 1H MRS: Relationship to Treatment-Resistance in Major Depressive Disorder 
Biological psychiatry  2009;65(9):792-800.
Significant alterations in γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate levels have been previously reported in symptomatic and remitted major depressive disorder (MDD); however, no studies to date have investigated potential associations between these amino acid neurotransmitters and treatment-resistance.
The objective of this study was to compare occipital cortex (OCC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) GABA and glutamate+glutamine (“Glx”) levels measured in vivo by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) in 15 medication-free treatment-resistant depression (TRD) patients with those in 18 non-treatment-resistant MDD (nTRD) patients and 24 healthy volunteers (HVs).
Levels of OCC GABA relative to voxel tissue water (W) were decreased in TRD patients compared to both HV (20.2% mean reduction; p=.001; Cohen’s d=1.3) and nTRD subjects (16.4% mean reduction; p=.007; Cohen’s d=1.4). There was a similar main effect of diagnosis for ACC GABA/W levels (p=.047; Cohen’s d=0.76) with TRD patients exhibiting reduced GABA in comparison to the other two groups (22.4–24.5% mean reductions). Group differences in Glx/W were not significant in either brain region in primary ANOVA analyses. Only GABA results in OCC survived correction for multiple comparisons.
Our findings corroborate previous reports of decreased GABA in MDD and provide initial evidence for a distinct neuronal amino acid profile in patients who have failed to respond to several standard antidepressants, possibly indicative of abnormal glutamate/glutamine/GABA cycling. Given interest in novel antidepressant mechanisms in TRD that selectively target amino acid neurotransmitter function, the translational relevance of these findings awaits further study.
PMCID: PMC2934870  PMID: 19058788
glutamate; GABA; magnetic resonance; spectroscopy; depression
25.  Reproducibility of single- and multi-voxel 1H MRS measurements of intramyocellular lipid in overweight and lean subjects under conditions of controlled dietary calorie and fat intake 
NMR in biomedicine  2008;21(5):498-506.
The reproducibility of repeated single-voxel 1H MRS (SV-MRS) and spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) measurements of intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) in the tibialis anterior muscle of five lean and five overweight female Caucasians, during 7 days of controlled dietary fat and calorie intake, was assessed at 1.5 T. Duplicate measures of IMCL relative to total muscle creatine (IMCL/tCr) obtained 3 days apart by both SV-MRS and MRSI correlated well (r =0.65 and r =0.95, respectively, P <0.05). The coefficients of variation for repeated measures of IMCL/tCr by SV-MRS and MRSI were 24.4% and 10.7%, respectively. IMCL/tCr measured by MRSI was higher in overweight subjects than in lean subjects (8.3 ± 3.8 vs 4.3 ± 2.4, P <0.05). Although both methods achieved good reproducibility in measuring IMCL in vivo, MRSI was found to offer greater flexibility and reliability, and higher sensitivity to IMCL differences, whereas SV-MRS was advantageous with respect to shorter scan time and ease of implementation.
PMCID: PMC2892914  PMID: 17955571
intramyocellular lipid; reproducibility; MRS; spectroscopic imaging; diet; overweight

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