NMDA receptors and fear extinction: implications for cognitive behavioral therapy.
Based primarily on studies that employ Pavlovian fear conditioning, extinction of conditioned fear has been found to be mediated by N-methyi-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex. This led to the discovery that an NMDA partial agonist, D-cycloserine, could facilitate fear extinction when given systemically or locally into the amygdala. Because many forms of cognitive behavioral therapy depend on fear extinction, this led to the successful use of D-cycloserine as an adjunct to psychotherapy in patients with so-called simple phobias (fear of heights), social phobia, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and panic disorder. Data in support of these conclusions are reviewed, along with some of the possible limitations of D-cycloserine as an adjunct to psychotherapy.