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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Jan;36(1):274-93. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.88. Epub 2010 Jul 14.

Glutamate receptors in extinction and extinction-based therapies for psychiatric illness.

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Behavioral Genetics Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.

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  • Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Mar;36(4):910.


Some psychiatric illnesses involve a learned component. For example, in posttraumatic stress disorder, memories triggered by trauma-associated cues trigger fear and anxiety, and in addiction, drug-associated cues elicit drug craving and withdrawal. Clinical interventions to reduce the impact of conditioned cues in eliciting these maladaptive conditioned responses are likely to be beneficial. Extinction is a method of lessening conditioned responses and involves repeated exposures to a cue in the absence of the event it once predicted. We believe that an improved understanding of the behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms of extinction will allow extinction-like procedures in the clinic to become more effective. Research on the role of glutamate-the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain-in extinction has led to the development of pharmacotherapeutics to enhance the efficacy of extinction-based protocols in clinical populations. In this review, we describe what has been learned about glutamate actions at its three major receptor types (N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors, and metabotropic glutamate receptors) in the extinction of conditioned fear, drug craving, and withdrawal. We then discuss how these findings have been applied in clinical research.

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