Investigating d-cycloserine as a potential pharmacological enhancer of an emotional bias learning procedure.
Woud ML., Blackwell SE., Steudte-Schmiedgen S., Browning M., Holmes EA., Harmer CJ., Margraf J., Reinecke A.
The partial N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor agonist d-cycloserine may enhance psychological therapies. However, its exact mechanism of action is still being investigated. Cognitive bias modification techniques allow isolation of cognitive processes and thus investigation of how they may be affected by d-cycloserine. We used a cognitive bias modification paradigm targeting appraisals of a stressful event, Cognitive Bias Modification-Appraisal, to investigate whether d-cycloserine enhanced the modification of appraisal, and whether it caused greater reduction in indices of psychopathology. Participants received either 250 mg of d-cycloserine ( n=19) or placebo ( n=19). As a stressor task, participants recalled a negative life event, followed by positive Cognitive Bias Modification-Appraisal training. Before and after Cognitive Bias Modification-Appraisal, appraisals and indices of psychopathology related to the stressor were assessed. Cognitive Bias Modification-Appraisal successfully modified appraisals, but d-cycloserine did not affect appraisals post-training. There were no post-training group differences in frequency of intrusions. Interestingly, d-cycloserine led to a greater reduction in distress and impact on state mood from recalling the event, and lower distress post-training was associated with fewer intrusions. Therefore, d-cycloserine may affect emotional reactivity to recalling a negative event when combined with induction of a positive appraisal style, but via a mechanism other than enhanced learning of the appraisal style.