If you are familiar with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) used to treat anxiety disorders, you might also be familiar with exposure therapy, a CBT technique that confronts the cause of anxiety in order to re-evaluate the actual danger present, and learn healthy ways to deal with the resulting fear. For example, if you are afraid of heights, exposure therapy might gradually expose you to different height levels, while teaching you better strategies to manage the stress it creates. Exposure therapy can be very effective - in a successful exposure, fear could begin with a high distress measurement of 80% to 90% and end significantly lower, at 10 to 20%. Ideally, this learning process should continue to lead patients to report a lowered distress rating whenever confronted by the feared object or event.



D-cycloserine (DCS), a memory enhancing drug that acts on specific nerve-cell receptors in the brain, can be used to improve the learning that takes place during exposure practices. DCS can help your cells respond to the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is important in a process integral to anxiety treatment called extinction learning. Extinction learning is the basis for exposure therapy: it allows anxious patients to learn that feared outcomes are unlikely to occur. After a patient with a phobia of spiders is exposed repeatedly to spiders without any negative consequences, the patient learns that the feared stimulus does not result in the feared outcome, and is able to overcome his or her fear.



DCS Side Effects are Minimal, but Dose Timing Remains Uncertain



Next Steps in Using DCS to Enhance Exposure Therapy

Given that DCS has not yet been approved by the FDA as a drug used to enhance CBT for anxiety, it is currently unavailable to the public. However, a new research study examining DCS's role in exposure therapy is being conducted at three universities: Boston University, University of Texas at Austin, and Rush University. The study will examine the effectiveness of giving DCS to patients only when fear subsides after an exposure.


  • 波士顿大学/** /
  • University of Texas at Austin/** /
  • 赶富大学/ ** /

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