GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system of mammals. Its role changes from excitatory to inhibitory as the brain develops into adulthood. Normally, when a neuron receives an impulse, it will make the signal stronger, an inhibiting neurotransmitter prevents the cell from receiving the impulse, and the signal as a whole is weakened. In mammals, GABA regulates the extent to which neurons in the central nervous system will be stimulated.

It plays a role in regulating neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. In humans, GABA is also directly responsible for the regulation of muscle tone. Even though chemically it is an amino acid, GABA is rarely referred to as such in the scientific or medical communities. The term ‘amino acid,’ used without a qualifier, refers to the alpha amino acids, which GABA is not. GABA is also not incorporated into proteins.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid was first synthesized in 1883, and was known only as a plant and microbe metabolic product. In 1950, however, GABA was discovered to be an integral part of the mammalian central nervous system. Drugs that act as GABA analogues (GABAergic drugs) and increase the available amount of GABA typically have relaxing, anti-anxiety, and anti-convulsive effects. Many of the substances below are known to cause anterograde amnesia and retrograde amnesia.

A number of commercial sources sell formulations of GABA for use as a dietary supplement, sometimes for sublingual administration. These sources typically make claims that the supplement has a calming effect. No scientific assessment of such claims exists, but because of the extensive evidence that GABA does not cross the blood-brain barrier at significant levels, their validity is doubtful. However some over-the-counter supplements such as Picamilon can cross the barrier due to added macro-molecules.

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