Background: Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as unipolar depression in clinical practice
although both of them are thought to be associated with the dysfunction of glutamate/GABA
transmission. Recent studies have detected the changes in glutamate and GABA levels by means of
magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in patients with bipolar disorder and unipolar depression, but
these results are inconsistent. Methods: We have reviewed some of recent human studies measuring
brain glutamate and GABA concentrations in patients with bipolar disorder and unipolar depression and summarized the
differences between them. Results: BD and UD patients show contrasting directions in Glx changes and different changes
in GABA levels. Conclusion: We proposed to distinguish bipolar from unipolar depression by comparing the profiles of
glutamate and GABA concentrations in the two disorders.
Keywords: γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), bipolar disorder, glutamate, unipolar depression.
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