General Aspects and History

y-Amino butyric acid - or GABA for short - is the most ubiquitous inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA was discovered in 1883 but it took until the late 1950s before its inhibitory function was described (Bazemore et al. 1956). Subsequently, it became evident that this small amino acid is the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA is widely spread among the phyla, including invertebrates as well as vertebrates. In invertebrates, it occurs in both the central and the peripheral nervous system.

Its abundance in the central nervous system of vertebrates becomes obvious when one considers that GABA is expressed in about 30% of all synapses. It was initially thought that GABA was confined to inhibitory interneurons and was absent from projection neurons. Today, we know that there are many examples of GABAergic projection neurons as well.

The pharmacological potency of synaptic transmission by GABA becomes apparent by recollecting that some of the most widely distributed sedatives, like barbiturates and benzodiazepines, interact with GABA receptors and modulate GABAergic effects.

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