Variations on an inhibitory theme: Phasic and tonic activation of GABA A receptors

Mark Farrant, Zoltan Nusser

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1381 Citations (Scopus)


The proper functioning of the adult mammalian brain relies on the orchestrated regulation of neural activity by a diverse population of GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid)-releasing neurons. Until recently, our appreciation of GABA-mediated inhibition focused predominantly on the GABAA (GABA type A) receptors located at synaptic contacts, which are activated in a transient or 'phasic' manner by GABA that is released from synaptic vesicles. However, there is growing evidence that low concentrations of ambient GABA can persistently activate certain subtypes of GABAA receptor, which are often remote from synapses, to generate a 'tonic' conductance. In this review, we consider the distinct roles of synaptic and extrasynaptic GABA receptor subtypes in the control of neuronal excitability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-229
Number of pages15
JournalNature Reviews Neuroscience
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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