GABA and lateral inhibition

The brain maintains a balance between two neurotransmitters: GABA, the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter and glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter. GABA, countering the stimulating effects of glutamate, functions to slow the firing of brain cells, inducing a calmed and relaxed state.

There are two types of GABA receptors: GABAa and GABAb. When GABA binds to a GABAa receptor, excited neurons are blocked, which leads to relaxation, sedation, sleep, and reduced anxiety. When GABA binds to a GABAb receptor, a more complex process is triggered, which reduces stress, boosts cognition, relaxes muscles, and reduces chronic pain and inflammation.

Benefits of GABA:
• Improves sleep
• Positively affects brainwaves
• Boosts cognition
• Increases emotional intelligence
• Helps with digestion
• Prevents depression
• Reduces anxiety
• Reduces addiction
• Combats pain
• Protects the brain and heart
• Promotes brain development
• Increases exercise performance
• Reduces risk of seizure
• Boosts energy levels
• Relaxes muscles
• Reduces inflammation

Supplements such as magnolia bark, lemon balm, lavender, taurine, kava, and vitamin B6 can help to boost levels of GABA in the body. Alternatively, certain lifestyle changes such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and vagus nerve stimulation can increase GABA.

Measuring GABA levels directly in the brain is challenging and often requires specialized techniques. Here are a couple of methods commonly used to indirectly assess GABA levels:

Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS): MRS is a non-invasive imaging technique that provides information about the chemical composition of brain tissue. GABA can be measured using MRS by focusing on specific frequencies of the magnetic resonance signal associated with GABA molecules. This method provides an estimate of GABA concentration in a particular brain region. However, MRS requires specialized equipment and is typically performed in research settings. It was with this technique that measures with the Brain Gauge were correlated (i.e., the Brain Gauge metrics are sensitive to changes in GABA).

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): TMS is a technique that involves applying magnetic pulses to the scalp to stimulate specific brain regions. Researchers have developed methods like paired-pulse TMS to indirectly infer GABAergic activity. By examining how the brain responds to different TMS protocols, scientists can gain insights into GABAergic inhibitory processes.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI): While fMRI primarily measures blood oxygenation changes related to neural activity, researchers have developed techniques like GABA-edited fMRI. These methods aim to indirectly infer GABA concentrations based on the relationship between neural activity and neurotransmitter levels.

Neurochemical Imaging: Techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET) combined with specific radiotracers can provide information about neurotransmitter receptors, transporters, and binding sites. These measurements indirectly give insights into neurotransmitter systems, including GABAergic pathways.

It's important to note that these methods often require specialized equipment, expertise, and controlled environments. They are commonly used in research and clinical settings to study neurotransmitter function and its implications in various neurological and psychiatric conditions. However, researchers have used the Brain Gauge to not only study changes in GABA, but changes in the different types of GABA. GABAa and GABAb cannot be differentiated with of the above techniques, but we have observed differences between GABAa and GABAb using the Brain Gauge. One thing many people forget is that sensory perception is much more sensitive than modern imaging techniques.

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