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The story of gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA) is one of “from rags to riches.” From being an unidentified compound found in brain extracts, GABA rose to prominence as the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain. Throughout the brain, GABA keeps the excitatory neurotransmitters in check and thereby safeguards the overall balance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission, which is a prerequisite for normal brain function. Without GABA, there is no life. Blocking the function of GABA in animals pharmacologically leads to a runaway neuronal excitation with catastrophic epileptic attacks and death.

Although GABA was initially a biochemical curiosity and a physiological enigma, in the mid-1950s, evidence appeared of its neurochemical nature and its ability to inhibit the activity of nerve cells. At the time, sensory neurons in ...

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