Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia in the elderly. Research focused on identifying compounds that restore cognition and memory in AD patients is a very active investigational pursuit, but unfortunately, it has been only successful in terms of developing symptomatic treatments. Aβ deposition and neurofibrillary tangles along with neuron and synapse loss are associated with neurotransmitter dysfunction and have been recognized as hallmarks of AD. Furthermore, clinical and preclinical studies point to this neurotransmitter dysfunction as a main factor underlying both cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms of the illness.
Cholinergic deficit in AD prompted the use of cholinesterase inhibitors as the symptomatic treatment of cognitive decline in AD, however this therapeutic approach provides only modest benefit in the majority of patients. Hence, nowadays research is focused on investigating compounds that could restore cognition and memory in AD patients. GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and GABAergic neurons provide extensive innervation to cholinergic and glutamatergic neurons. It has been shown that dysfunction of the GABAergic system may contribute to cognitive impairment in humans. Significant reductions in GABA levels have been described in severe cases of AD, which could be underlying the behavioral and psychological symptoms of AD. This review examines the involvement of the GABAergic system in both cognitive and non-cognitive behavioural symptoms in AD, providing some pointers for rational drug development.