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Abstract

Low gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid are seen in a variety of epileptic syndromes. Low GABA levels outside of the epileptic focus may facilitate spread of discharges beyond the focus. In vivo measurements of GABA were made by 1H spectroscopy using a 2.1-T magnetic resonance imager-spectrometer and an 8-cm surface coil to measure a 14-cm3 volume in the occipital lobe. Patients with complex partial seizures had lower GABA levels (1.03 mmol/kg of brain; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.95−1.12; n = 28; p < 0.02) than did subjects without epilepsy (1.18; 95% CI, 1.13−1.24; n = 19). There was a significant association between low GABA levels and recent seizures (correlation coefficient of 0.548, p < 0.01, df of 32). Conversely, patients with well-controlled seizures had higher brain GABA levels than did patients with recent seizures. Patients with seizures within a day of the measurement had lower GABA levels (0.92 mmol/kg; 95% CI, 0.78−1.06; n = 7) than did patients who were seizure free for 5 years or longer (1.28; 95% CI, 1.09−1.47; n = 4). Poor seizure control is associated with low brain GABA levels.