Benzodiazepine receptors mediate regional blood flow changes in the living human brain

Elizabeth Matthew, Paul Andreason, Karen Pettigrew, Richard E. Carson, Peter Herscovitch, Robert Cohen, Catherine King, Chris Ellyn Johanson, David J. Greenblatt, Steven M. Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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We studied the effects of a high-affinity γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)- benzodiazepine-receptor agonist (lorazepam) and an antagonist (flumazenil) in humans, using H215O positron-emission tomography. Administration of lorazepam to healthy volunteers caused time- and dose-dependent reductions in regional cerebral blood flow and self-reported alterations in behavioral/mood parameters. Flumazenil administration reversed these changes. These observations indicated that benzodiazepine-induced effects on regional cerebral blood flow and mood/behavior are mediated at some level through GABA-benzodiazepine receptors, although the specific mechanism remains unclear. The approach described here provides a method for quantifying GABA- benzodiazepine-receptor-mediated neurotransmission in the living human brain and may be useful for studying the role of these receptors in a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2775-2779
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 28 1995


  • HO positron-emission tomography


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