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Nitrous oxide speeds the reduction of distressing intrusive memories in an experimental model of psychological trauma

Das, RK; Tamman, A; Nikolova, V; Freeman, TP; Bisby, JA; Lazzarino, AI; Kamboj, SK; (2016) Nitrous oxide speeds the reduction of distressing intrusive memories in an experimental model of psychological trauma. Psychological Medicine , 46 (8) pp. 1749-1759. 10.1017/S003329171600026X. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves maladaptive long-term memory formation which underlies involuntary intrusive thoughts about the trauma. Preventing the development of such maladaptive memory is a key aim in preventing the development of PTSD. We examined whether the N-methyl d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist gas nitrous oxide (N2O) could reduce the frequency of intrusive memories by inhibiting NMDAR-dependent memory consolidation in a laboratory analogue of psychological trauma. Method: Participants were randomized to inhale N2O (N = 25) or medical air (N = 25) after viewing a negatively valenced emotional film clip (‘trauma film’). Participants subsequently completed a daily diary assessing frequency of intrusive thoughts relating to the film clip. A week later, participants completed an explicit memory recall task related to the film. Results: Post-encoding N2O sped the reduction in intrusive memory frequency, with a significant reduction by the next day in the N2O group compared to 4 days later in the air group. N2O also interacted with post-film dissociation, producing increased intrusion frequency in those who were highly dissociated at baseline. Sleep length and quality the night after viewing the film did not differ between the groups. Conclusion: N2O speeds the reduction of intrusive analogue trauma memory in a time-dependent manner, consistent with sleep-dependent long-term consolidation disruption. Further research with this drug is warranted to determine its potential to inoculate against enduring effects of psychological trauma; however, caution is also urged in dissociated individuals where N2O may aggravate PTSD-like symptomatology.

Type: Article
Title: Nitrous oxide speeds the reduction of distressing intrusive memories in an experimental model of psychological trauma
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S003329171600026X
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1017/S003329171600026X
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Intrusions, memory consolidation, nitrous oxide, PTSD
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10051379
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