American Diabetes Association
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Reduced Thalamic Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) in Painless but not Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

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posted on 2024-05-22, 18:50 authored by Pallai Shillo, Gordon Sloan, Dinesh Selvarajah, Marni Greig, Rajiv Gandhi, Praveen Anand, Richard A Edden, Iain D Wilkinson, Solomon Tesfaye

Alterations in the structure, function, and microcirculation of the thalamus, a key brain region involved in pain pathways, have previously been demonstrated in patients with Painless- and Painful-diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). However, thalamic neurotransmitter levels including GABA (inhibitory neurotransmitter) and glutamate (excitatory neurotransmitter) in different DPN phenotypes are not known. We performed a Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy study and quantified GABA and glutamate levels within the thalamus, in a carefully characterised cohort of participants with Painless- and Painful-DPN. Participants with DPN (Painful- and Painless combined) had a significantly lower GABA:H2O ratio compared to those without DPN (Healthy volunteers [HV] and diabetes without DPN [No-DPN]). Participants with Painless-DPN had the lowest GABA:H2O ratio, which reached significance compared with HV and No-DPN, but not Painful-DPN. There was no difference in GABA:H2O in Painful-DPN compared with all other groups. A significant correlation with GABA:H2O and neuropathy severity was also seen. This study demonstrates that lower levels of thalamic GABA in participants with Painless-DPN may reflect neuroplasticity due to reduced afferent pain impulses. Whereas partially preserved levels of GABA in Painful-DPN may indicate that central GABAergic pathways are involved in the mechanisms of neuropathic pain in diabetes.


This study was funded by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, charitable fund. The funding source had no influence in any aspect pertinent to this study.