Effects of systemic glutamatergic manipulations on conditioned eyeblink responses and hyperarousal in a rabbit model of post-traumatic stress disorder

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Glutamatergic dysfunction is implicated in many neuropsychiatric conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Glutamate antagonists have shown some utility in treating PTSD symptoms, whereas glutamate agonists may facilitate cognitive behavioral therapy outcomes. We have developed an animal model of PTSD, based on conditioning of the rabbit’s eyeblink response, that addresses two key features: conditioned responses (CRs) to cues associated with an aversive event and a form of conditioned hyperarousal referred to as conditioning-specific reflex modification (CRM). The optimal treatment to reduce both CRs and CRM is unpaired extinction. The goals of the study were to examine whether treatment with the N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptor antagonist ketamine could reduce CRs and CRM, and whether the N-methyl-D-aspartate agonist D-cycloserine combined with unpaired extinction treatment could enhance the extinction of both. Administration of a single dose of subanesthetic ketamine had no significant immediate or delayed effect on CRs or CRM. Combining D-cycloserine with a single day of unpaired extinction facilitated extinction of CRs in the short term while having no impact on CRM. These results caution that treatments may improve one aspect of the PTSD symptomology while having no significant effects on other symptoms, stressing the importance of a multiple-treatment approach to PTSD and of animal models that address multiple symptoms.

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