Enhancing strength and generalization of extinction memory to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a preclinical study focusing on the interplay between the glucocorticoid and endocannabinoid systems.
The onset of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is triggered by a life threatening experience, which leaves a lasting trace of fear memory. In PTSD patients memories become largely generalized, so that a similar context generates a robust recall of a traumatic experience, thus severely compromising individual well-being and day-to-day activities. Currently, there is no ideal treatment for PTSD; exposure therapy is partially effective, but many patients do not respond and often relapse after treatment. Brain functions governing treatment outcome are not well characterized. We propose that inter-individual differences in glucocorticoid and endocannabinoid activity are associated with treatment success, and that pharmacological augmentation of endocannabinoid signaling could lead to improved outcome of exposure therapy by enhancing both the strength and generalization of fear extinction memory. Therefore, gaining insight into these neurobiological mechanisms by mean of preclinical studies will be key in the development of novel and personalized pharmacological treatment options.