The N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Co-agonist D-Cycloserine Facilitates Declarative Learning and Hippocampal Activity in Humans

Oezguer A. Onur, Thomas E. Schlaepfer, Juraj Kukolja, Andreas Bauer, Haang Jeung, Alexandra Patin, David Marian Otte, N. Jon Shah, Wolfgang Maier, Keith M. Kendrick, Gereon R. Fink, René Hurlemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Background: The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) is critical for learning-related synaptic plasticity in amygdala and hippocampus. As a consequence, there is considerable interest in drugs targeting this receptor to help enhance amygdala- and hippocampus-dependent learning. A promising candidate in this respect is the NMDAR glycine-binding site partial agonist D-cycloserine (DCS). Accumulating clinical evidence indicates the efficacy of DCS in the facilitation of amygdala-dependent fear extinction learning in patients with phobic, social anxiety, panic, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. An important unresolved question though is whether the use of DCS can also facilitate hippocampus-dependent declarative learning in healthy people as opposed to being restricted to the fear memory domain. Methods: In the present study, we investigated whether or not DCS can facilitate hippocampus-dependent declarative learning. We have therefore combined functional magnetic resonance imaging with two different declarative learning tasks and cytoarchitectonic probabilistic mapping of the hippocampus and its major subdivisions in 40 healthy volunteers administered either a 250 mg single oral dose of DCS or a placebo. Results: We found that DCS facilitates declarative learning as well as blood-oxygen level dependent activity levels in the probabilistically defined cornu ammonis region of the hippocampus. The absence of activity changes in visual control areas underscores the specific action of DCS in the hippocampal cornu ammonis region. Conclusions: Our findings highlight NMDAR glycine-binding site partial agonism as a promising pharmacological mechanism for facilitating declarative learning in healthy people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1205-1211
Number of pages7
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2010


  • Cognitive enhancement
  • D-cycloserine
  • NMDA receptor
  • declarative learning
  • fMRI
  • hippocampus
  • memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'The N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Co-agonist D-Cycloserine Facilitates Declarative Learning and Hippocampal Activity in Humans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this