Predicting learning and achievement using GABA and glutamate concentrations in human development


Previous research has highlighted the role of glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in learning and plasticity. What is currently unknown is how this knowledge translates to real-life complex cognitive abilities that emerge slowly and how the link between these neurotransmitters and human learning and plasticity is shaped by development. While some have suggested a generic role of glutamate and GABA in learning and plasticity, others have hypothesized that their involvement shapes sensitive periods during development. Here we used a cross-sectional longitudinal design with 255 individuals (spanning primary school to university) to show that glutamate and GABA in the intraparietal sulcus explain unique variance both in current and future mathematical achievement (approximately 1.5 years). Furthermore, our findings reveal a dynamic and dissociable role of GABA and glutamate in predicting learning, which is reversed during development, and therefore provide novel implications for models of learning and plasticity during childhood and adulthood.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences
Additional Information: Copyright: © 2021 Zacharopoulos et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: The Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging is supported by core funding from the Wellcome Trust (203139/Z/16/Z, URL: This work was supported by the European Research Council (Learning & Achievement 338065, URL: (RCK).
Uncontrolled Keywords: Gamma-aminobutyric acid,Neurotransmitters,Glutamate,Human learning,Cognition,Cognitive neurology,Reasoning,Smart materials
Publication ISSN: 1545-7885
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 16:22
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2021 08:22
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Related URLs: https://journal ... al.pbio.3001325 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-07-22
Accepted Date: 2021-06-15
Authors: Zacharopoulos, George
Sella, Francesco
Cohen Kadosh, Kathrin
Hartwright, Charlotte (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-1197-7541)
Emir, Uzay
Cohen Kadosh, Roi



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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