March 5, 2021

A causal study of bumetanide on a marker of excitatory-inhibitory balance in the human brain

Bumetanide has received much interest as a potential pharmacological modulator of the putative imbalance in excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) signaling that is thought to characterize autism spectrum conditions. Yet, currently, no studies of bumetanide efficacy have used an outcome measure that is modeled to depend on E/I balance in the brain. In this manuscript, we present the first causal study of the effect of bumetanide on an objective marker of E/I balance in the brain, binocular rivalry, which we have previously shown to be sensitive to pharmacological manipulation of GABA. Using a within-subjects placebo-control crossover design study, we show that, contrary to expectation, acute administration of bumetanide does not alter binocular rivalry dynamics in neurotypical adult individuals. Neither changes in response times nor response criteria can account for these results. These results raise important questions about the efficacy of acute bumetanide administration for altering E/I balance in the human brain, and highlight the importance of studies using objective markers of the underlying neural processes that drugs hope to target.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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