gamma-aminobutyric acid Acid (GABA) is an amino acid, a chemical in your body that is important for maintaining health and keeping your body’s systems functioning properly. GABA’s main job is as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it blocks the transmission of messages between nerve cells and the brain or spinal cord.
Specifically, GABA blocks certain nerve signals in the brain to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress. Without the correct levels of GABA in the body, conditions such as anxiety disorders can be made worse.
This article explains what GABA is, how it works, and what happens if there isn’t enough GABA activity in the body. It also covers how GABA activity can be modulated by drugs and supplements.
What is GABA?
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the nervous system. Information travels along the nervous system through neurons that transmit signals to each other. For example, they might send a message from their brain to your hand to stay away from danger, or they might send a message from their hand to their brain that the pot is hot.
as a inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA blocks certain nerve transmissions or messages. It works by preventing the stimulation of neurons. This means that neurons that receive messages along the way do not act on them, so messages are not sent to other neurons.
GABA stops messages related to extreme emotions. In other words, GABA calms your nervous system and helps you not become overly anxious or scared.
Problems with GABA signaling seem to play a role in disorders that affect your mental health or nervous system.these are called Psychiatry and Neurology situation.
Difference Between Types of Neurotransmitters
Inhibitory neurotransmitters like GABA block certain brain signals and reduce nervous system activity. Another inhibitory neurotransmitter, serotonin, helps stabilize mood.
Excitatory neurotransmitters have the opposite effect: they boost certain brain signals and increase nervous system activity. An example of an excitatory neurotransmitter is norepinephrine.
When a neuron receives a message called an “action potential,” that message is passed on to another neuron in a series of steps.
However, about 30% to 40% of neurons contain GABA. these are called GABAergic Neurons. When GABAergic neurons receive information, they release GABA into the synapses that are supposed to transmit the information. The release of GABA initiates a response that makes the action potential less likely to be transmitted to other neurons.
GABA activity lasts only a few milliseconds, but can have a major impact. In the brain, it produces a sedative effect.In the spinal cord, this process allows sensory information integrationwhich means it allows your nervous system to process and organize information from your senses.
GABA is an amino acid that helps regulate mood. It is released by certain neurons that transmit information along the nervous system. The role of GABA is to block the transmission of information. Specifically, it affects how the body responds to anxiety, fear, and stress, and allows the nervous system to better process information.
The role of GABA in mental health
If GABAergic neurons don’t release GABA properly, it can affect mental health and help neurodevelopment Diseases (Brain and Nervous System Disorders).Lack of proper GABA activity may schizophreniaautism, Tourette’s syndrome, and other disorders.
GABA activity helps you have a healthy response to stress by preventing neurons from sending out messages that “fire” your body.
Many things can affect GABA levels, which can lead to anxiety. For example, studies have shown that external stressors and early life stressors can directly affect how GABA functions in the body, creating an imbalance.
Lack of GABA is associated with problems performing normal mental functions. This is called a cognitive deficit. This is very important for people with schizophrenia, a mental illness that causes problems with proper thinking and behavior.
Problems with GABA-A receptors on specific elements of the nervous system are associated with features of schizophrenia, including hallucinations and cognitive impairment.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
While the exact cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remains unclear, animal and human studies have found an association between abnormal GABA activity and ASD symptoms. There appears to be a relationship between GABA and limited interests or difficulties in social interaction in people with autism.
Research related to autism seems to show that GABA does not work alone. This neurotransmitter imbalance may affect other neurotransmitters and receptors, or GABA may be affected by other neurotransmitters and receptors.
major depressive disorder
Lower levels of GABA in the body are also associated with major depressive disorder (MDD). This may be because GABA works synergistically with other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is also implicated in mood disorders.
Research also suggests that improper GABA function may be a factor in suicide.
How GABA Affects Physical Health
Proper GABA activity plays an important role in several diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases in which the body’s nerve cells break down or die.
These diseases include:
- Huntington’s disease: Decreased levels of GABA in people with Huntington’s disease may lead to dysfunction in brain regions that regulate voluntary movements.
- Epilepsy: Lack of GABA activity is associated with overactive nervous system during seizures.
- Parkinson’s disease: Parkinson’s disease may have too much activity, rather than too little GABA activity. This blocks messages from the brain’s motor centers.
Other disorders associated with GABA activity include:
- Pyridoxine Deficiency is a rare disorder in which the vitamin pyridoxine cannot synthesize or form GABA. A deficiency of pyridoxine may cause seizures in infancy.
- hepatic encephalopathy Is a liver disease that affects brain function. It is associated with high levels of ammonia in the body. This ammonia may bind to GABA receptors and prevent them from working properly.
- dystonia is a movement disorder involving involuntary muscle spasms thought to be related to a lack of GABA activity.
Stress and other factors can affect the development of the nervous system and GABA activity. This can lead to too little GABA, which may play a role in disorders related to brain function and mood. Studies have shown a link between amino acid deficiency and schizophrenia, autism, depression, and anxiety.
GABA activity (too little or too much) is also associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Other diseases may be caused by the body’s inability to make GABA properly or other substances that prevent it from functioning properly.
GABA occurs naturally in the body. If there seems to be a problem with GABA activity, your doctor may prescribe medication. Supplements are also sometimes used to modulate GABA-controlled functions.
Medications used to modulate GABA signaling include:
- Benzodiazepines: Binds to GABA-A receptor to increase sedative effect.
- Barbiturates: Sedatives that increase the binding time of GABA to GABA-A receptors
- vigabatrin: Used to prevent the breakdown of GABA to help treat certain types of epilepsy
- Propofol: A sedative commonly used in general anesthesia, supports GABA function
- Flumazenil: Binds to GABA-A receptors to improve the mental state of people with mental illness hepatic encephalopathy
- baclofen: Muscle relaxant that promotes GABA-B binding
- Valproic acid Acid: inhibits GABA uptake; used as mood stabilizer and antiepileptic treatment
- Zolpidem: Acts on GABA-A receptors, has sedative and hypnotic effects
- Gabapentin: Increases GABA synthesis; commonly used to treat neuropathic pain
GABA is also available as an over-the-counter supplement. Manufacturers sell natural GABA in pills and capsules at various prices, claiming that their products can help reduce stress and help you feel calm and relaxed. It can be sold alone or mixed with other substances such as sleep-promoting melatonin.
Are GABA Supplements Safe?
As with many other herbal supplements, GABA supplements should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women because there is no strong research to show that it is safe.
If you are considering taking GABA supplements, please consult your doctor first.
What You Should Know Before Taking GABA Supplements
Alcohol and other drugs can affect the production or activity of GABA. People trying to self-medicate may abuse these substances.
For example, alcohol promotes GABA receptor activity. This can create a temporary sense of calm and relaxation. But this effect is artificial and risky. You won’t get the same effect over time. People may develop a tolerance, which makes the body need more of the substance to achieve the same feeling.
Overdose or taking multiple GABA modulating drugs (eg, taking GABA supplements and drinking alcohol) can cause respiratory depression (slow breathing) due to increased GABA signaling in the brainstem.
When to seek help
While your body’s naturally produced GABA has many benefits, artificial methods that alter GABA activity can cause serious problems. Abuse of certain substances may cause toxicity.
Consult your doctor if you are using GABA medications or supplements and other medications that affect GABA, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines.
To learn more about substance abuse, visit:
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Narcotics Anonymous
Much remains unknown about GABAergic neurons and GABA activity. It’s clear, though, that mood and mental health can be affected by this amino acid. It also plays a role in neurodegenerative and other diseases. Doctors may prescribe medication to help regulate GABA activity and treat these problems. These drugs need to be administered properly to avoid dependence or abuse.
There is little research to support the benefits of over-the-counter supplements. They may provide some help, but they can also pose a huge threat to your health if you use these supplements with alcohol or other drugs.
Talk to your doctor if you develop symptoms of anxiety or depression before self-medicating with over-the-counter medications. Mood and anxiety disorders are complex and require professionally directed treatment.
GABA modulating drugs have powerful appeal for people who are struggling to relax, calm themselves, and sleep. But they carry a high risk of abuse, which can create more problems. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use problems or abuse, seeking professional treatment early can help reduce negative effects.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many neurotransmitters are there?
So far, scientists have identified more than 60 different neurotransmitters. They are divided into three groups according to their function: excitatory neurotransmitters, inhibitory neurotransmitters, and regulatory neurotransmitters.
How does GABA deficiency affect someone?
Deficiency in GABA activity can lead to certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and depression. It has also been linked to several medical conditions, including Huntington’s disease, dystonia, and muscle spasms.