Is glutamate associated with fear extinction and cognitive behavior therapy outcome in OCD? A pilot study

M. Giménez, M. Cano, I. Martínez-Zalacaín, E. Real, P. Alonso, C. Segalàs, J. Munuera, L. S. Kegeles, J. J. Weinstein, X. Xu, J. M. Menchón, N. Cardoner, C. Soriano-Mas, M. A. Fullana

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3 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) including exposure and response prevention is a well-established treatment for obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and is based on the principles of fear extinction. Fear extinction is linked to structural and functional variability in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and has been consistently associated with glutamate neurotransmission. The relationship between vmPFC glutamate and fear extinction and its effects on CBT outcome have not yet been explored in adults with OCD. We assessed glutamate levels in the vmPFC using 3T magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and fear extinction (learning and recall) using skin conductance responses during a 2-day experimental paradigm in OCD patients (n = 17) and in healthy controls (HC; n = 13). Obsessive–compulsive patients (n = 12) then received manualized CBT. Glutamate in the vmPFC was negatively associated with fear extinction recall and positively associated with CBT outcome (with higher glutamate levels predicting a better outcome) in OCD patients. Glutamate levels in the vmPFC in OCD patients were not significantly different from those in HC, and were not associated with OCD severity. Our results suggest that glutamate in the vmPFC is associated with fear extinction recall and CBT outcome in adult OCD patients.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Fear extinction
  • Glutamate
  • Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)


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