Occipital GABA correlates with cognitive failures in daily life

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  • Kristian Sandberg
  • Jakob Udby Blicher
  • Mia Yuan Dong, Cognitive Neuroscience Research Unit, Aarhus University Hospital, Noerrebrogade 44, Building 10G, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Geraint Rees, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, WC1N 3AR London, UK; Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, 12 Queen Square, WC1N 3AR London, UK.
  • ,
  • Jamie Near, Douglas Mental Health University Institute and Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, 1033 Pine Avenue West, Montreal, QC H3A 1A1, Canada; FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, OxfordOX3 9DU, UK.
  • ,
  • Ryota Kanai, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, WC1N 3AR London, UK; School of Psychology, Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex, Falmer, BN1 9QH, UK.
The brain has limited capacity, and so selective attention enhances relevant incoming information while suppressing irrelevant information. This process is not always successful, and the frequency of such cognitive failures varies to a large extent between individuals. Here we hypothesised that individual differences in cognitive failures might be reflected in inhibitory processing in the sensory cortex. To test this hypothesis, we measured GABA in human visual cortex using MR spectroscopy and found a negative correlation between occipital GABA (GABA+/Cr ratio) and cognitive failures as measured by an established cognitive failures questionnaire (CFQ). For a second site in parietal cortex, no correlation between CFQ score and GABA+/Cr ratio was found, thus establishing the regional specificity of the link between occipital GABA and cognitive failures. We further found that grey matter volume in the left superior parietal lobule (SPL) correlated with cognitive failures independently from the impact of occipital GABA and together, occipital GABA and SPL grey matter volume statistically explained around 50% of the individual variability in daily cognitive failures. We speculate that the amount of GABA in sensory areas may reflect the potential capacity to selectively suppress irrelevant information already at the sensory level, or alternatively that GABA influences the specificity of neural representations in visual cortex thus improving the effectiveness of successful attentional modulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-60
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2013

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