D-Cycloserine reduces context specificity of sexual extinction learning

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Volume 125, p.202-210 (2015)


D-Cycloserine; sexuality; extinction; context specificity


Background: D-Cycloserine (DCS) enhances extinction processes in animals. Although classical conditioning is hypothesized to play a pivotal role in the aetiology of appetitive motivation problems, no research has been conducted on the effect of DCS on the reduction of context specificity of extinction in human appetitive learning, while facilitation hereof is relevant in the context of treatment of problematic reward-seeking behaviors. Methods: Female participants were presented with two conditioned stimuli (CSs) that either predicted (CS+) or did not predict (CS-) a potential sexual reward (unconditioned stimulus (US); genital vibrostimulation). Conditioning took place in context A and extinction in context B. Subjects received DCS (125 mg) or placebo directly after the experiment on day 1 in a randomized, double-blind, between-subject fashion (Placebo n = 31; DCS n = 31). Subsequent testing for CS-evoked conditioned responses (CRs) in both the conditioning (A) and the extinction context (B) took place 24 h later on day 2. Drug effects on consolidation were then assessed by comparing the recall of sexual extinction memories between the DCS and the placebo groups. Results: Post learning administration of DCS facilitates sexual extinction memory consolidation and affects extinction's fundamental context specificity, evidenced by reduced conditioned genital and subjective sexual responses, relative to placebo, for presentations of the reward predicting cue 24 h later outside the extinction context. Conclusions: DCS makes appetitive extinction memories context-independent and prevents the return of conditioned response. NMDA receptor glycine site agonists may be potential pharmacotherapies for the prevention of relapse of appetitive motivation disorders with a learned component.