The excitation-inhibition (E/I) imbalance is an important molecular pathological feature of major depressive disorder (MDD) as altered GABA and glutamate levels have been found in multiple brain regions in patients. Healthy subjects show topographic organization of the E/I balance (EIB) across various brain regions. We here raise the question of whether such EIB topography is altered in MDD. Therefore, we systematically review the gene and protein expressions of inhibitory GABAergic and excitatory glutamatergic signaling-related molecules in postmortem MDD brain studies as proxies for EIB topography. Searches were conducted through PubMed and 45 research articles were finally included. We found: i) brain-wide GABA- and glutamatergic alterations; ii) attenuated GABAergic with enhanced glutamatergic signaling in the cortical-subcortical limbic system; iii) that GABAergic signaling is decreased in regions comprising the default mode network (DMN) while it is increased in lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC). These together demonstrate abnormal GABA- and glutamatergic signaling-based EIB topographies in MDD. This enhances our pathophysiological understanding of MDD and carries important therapeutic implications for stimulation treatment.
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