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The Effect of Parietal Glutamate/GABA Balance on Test Anxiety Levels in Early Childhood in a Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Study

George Zacharopoulos, Francesco Sella, Kathrin Cohen Kadosh, Uzay Emir, Roi Cohen Kadosh

Cerebral Cortex

Swansea University Author: George Zacharopoulos

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DOI (Published version): 10.1093/cercor/bhab412

Abstract

The increased prevalence of test anxiety in our competitive society makes it a health issue of public concern. However, its neurobiological basis, especially during the years of formal education, is currently scant. Previous research has highlighted the association between neural excitation/inhibiti...

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Published in: Cerebral Cortex
ISSN: 1047-3211 1460-2199
Published: Oxford University Press (OUP) 2021
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa59140
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Abstract: The increased prevalence of test anxiety in our competitive society makes it a health issue of public concern. However, its neurobiological basis, especially during the years of formal education, is currently scant. Previous research has highlighted the association between neural excitation/inhibition balance and psychopathology and disease. We examined whether the glutamate/GABA profile tracks test anxiety levels in development, using a cross-sectional and longitudinal design in a cohort spanning from early childhood to early adulthood (N = 289), reassessed approximately 21 months later (N = 194). We used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to noninvasively quantify glutamate and gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) and the middle frontal gyrus. We show that the glutamate/GABA balance within the IPS relates to current individual variation in test anxiety levels and predict future test anxiety approximately 21 months later. Critically, this relationship was observed during early childhood but not during the later developmental stages. Our results extend the use of the excitation/inhibition balance framework to characterize the psychopathology mechanisms of test anxiety, an underexplored yet widespread and debilitating condition that can impact early child development. Our findings provide a better understanding of the neurotransmitter basis underlying the emergence of anxiety disorders during development.
Keywords: development, glutamate/GABA balance, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, test anxiety
College: College of Human and Health Sciences
Funders: Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging Grant: 203139/Z/16/Z; European Research Council Grant: 338065