Glutamate/GABA and Brain Health: It's More Than a Balancing Act


November 1-3, 2018

Tarrytown House Estate on the Hudson
49 East Sunnyside Lane.
Tarrytown, NY 10591
(800) 553-8118 or (914) 591-8200

This invitation-only, small-group, topically-focused workshop is one in a series of JSMF convenings on the metabolic and energetic underpinnings of normal brain function and the dysfunction associated with neurological disorders. Neuroscience is increasingly embracing the concepts and tools of complexity science and this workshop will expand that conversation to consider how a more sophisticated understanding of neurotransmitter functions and heterogenous cell type interactions within the context of dynamic brain circuits could yield new insights into brain disorders, particularly psychiatric diseases.

The 2018 workshop will focus on two interrelated questions:

1) How are the functions of local circuity and distributed networks influenced by the actions of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters at different temporal and spatial scales? There is a growing trend in the popular health and science literature to portray an important aspect of achieving or maintaining brain health as balancing a see-saw with excitatory neurotransmitter Glutamate on the one side opposed by the appropriate amount of inhibition by GABA on the other. An example of the popular portrayal can be found at this link: While perhaps easy to dismiss as public misunderstanding of the complexities of neuroscience – a dysfunctional Glutamate/Gaba ratio is routinely invoked in clinical neurology and psychiatry (for example, see A more sophisticated understanding of how these amino acid neurotransmitters work together to influence circuit function is required if we are to make progress treating neurological and psychiatric disorders that result from disruptions in circuit function rather than the disruption of tissue.

2) How do the metabolic and energetic inter-relationships among the principle brain cell types that comprise brain circuits influence circuit functions? While much of systems neuroscience remains neuro-centric, there is growing interest in understanding how a diversity of cell types contribute to information processing in the nervous system across temporal and spatial scales. In particular, neurochemistry has a long- standing tradition of studying the contributions glia make in the brain’s ability to process and transmit information.

The workshop will also commemorate the life and work of Professor Leif Hertz, whose own work shined a bright light on the importance of glia to brain function and whose scientific courage and integrity continues to inspire all who knew him.