GABA: Enhancing this Important Neurotransmitter

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Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (γ-Aminobutyric acid) or GABA, is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system. It plays the principal role in reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system.

The features of the GABA system are characterized in the following Table:

GABA System

SystemGABA
SystemGABAergic
TypeInhibitory
Lobe of the BrainTemporal lobes
BrainwaveTheta
Brain MeasurementBalance (Calm)
Balanced CharacteristicsCalmness
Stability
Even mood
Make good decisions
Deficiency CharacteristicsHeadaches
Palpitations
Seizures
Anxiety
DietComplex carbohydrates: Brown rice; broccoli; lentils; almonds; bananas; whole grain oats; oranges; spinach; walnuts; whole grain wheat..
SupplementsInositol powder; thiamine; tryptophan; passionflower; melatonin; magnesium; glutamine; niacinamide; pyridoxine; valerian root.

GABA Synthesis

GABA is synthesized from glutamate using the enzyme L-glutamic acid decarboxylase and pyridoxal phosphate (which is the active form of vitamin B6) as a cofactor.

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Figure 1:  GABA Biosynthesis Pathway

The enzymes and cofactors that product GABA are listed in the Table below: 

GABA - Enzymes and CoFactors

Amino Acid/NeuroTEnzymeCofactor(s)
GlutamineGlutaminaseH2O
GlutamateGlutamate decarboxylasePyridoxal 5’-phosphate (P5P) (active form of Vitamin B6)

It is vitally important to not be deficient in Vitamin B6 as it is critical in producing GABA.

GABA Receptor Complex

The GABA receptors are a class of receptors that respond to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate central nervous system.

There are two classes of GABA receptors:

  • GABAa receptors
  • GABAb receptors

GABAa Receptors

The GABAa receptor (GABAaR) is an ionotropic receptor and ligand-gated ion channel. Its endogenous ligand is γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.

Upon activation, the GABAa receptor selectively conducts Cl− through its pore, resulting in hyperpolarization of the neuron. This causes an inhibitory effect on neurotransmission by diminishing the chance of a successful action potential occurring.

GABAa Receptors

CategoryNatural SubstancesReference
Amino Acids
GABA Not well absorbed - Phenibut
Taurine1
Theanine2
Herbs
Ashwagandha3
MagnoliaHonokiol 4
Valerian5
Hormones
DHEA6
Pregnenolone7
Minerals
Magnesium8
Polyphenols
Amentoflavone [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amentoflavone ]9
Quercetin10

GABAb receptors

GABAb receptors (GABAbR) are metabotropic trans-membrane receptors for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) that are linked via G-proteins to potassium channels.

GABAb receptors are found in the central as well as in the autonomic division of the peripheral nervous system.

GABAb Receptors

CategoryNatural SubstanceReference
Amino Acids
GABA Does not cross BBB effectively
Phenibutβ-Phenyl-γ-aminobutyric acid 1

GABA Enhancement and Precursors

The Table below lists the substances that enhance GABA and can be considered precursors of GABA:

Substance that Enhance and are Precursors to GABA

CategoryNatural SubstanceReference
Amino Acids
Glutamine1
Taurine2
Theanine3
GABANot very bioavailable
Herbs
Ginko Biloba4
St. John’s Wort5
Valerian6
Passionflower7
Gastrodinincreases levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA by as much as 34% 8
Hormones
Melatonin9
Nootropics
Phenibut10
Pyroglutatmate11
Vitamins
Alpha-GPC12
Inositol13
Vitamin B3 (niacinamide) 14
Vitamin B615


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