Regular Article| Volume 8, ISSUE 2, P120-127, April 1999

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Effects of valproate and other antiepileptic drugs on brain glutamate, glutamine, and GABA in patients with refractory complex partial seizures

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      Preclinical studies suggested valproate increased brain γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) with no major effects on brain glutamate or glutamine. Valproate increased human cerebrospinal fluid GABA and glutamine in some studies; others reported no effect.In vivomeasurements of glutamate, glutamine, and GABA were made of a 14 cm3volume in the occipital cortex using a1H spectroscopy with a 2.1 Tesla magnetic resonance spectrometer and an 8 cm surface coil. Ten control subjects and 14 patients with refractory complex partial seizures were examined. Brain glutamine concentrations were above normal in three of five patients taking valproate and two of nine taking carbamazepine or phenytoin. Mean glutamine levels of patients taking valproate were higher than control subjects and patients taking carbamazepine or phenytoin. Brain glutamate concentrations were above normal in four of nine patients taking phenytoin or carbamazepine and two of five taking valproate. Brain GABA levels were below normal in four of nine patients taking carbamazepine or phenytoin and one of five taking valproate. Above normal glutamate or below normal GABA was present in nine of 14 patients and may contribute to their refractory epilepsy. Increased brain glutamine associated with valproate therapy may reflect mild hyperammonemia.