Subanesthetic Dose Ketamine in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Role for Reconsolidation During Trauma-Focused Psychotherapy?

  • Cato VeenEmail author
  • Gabriel Jacobs
  • Ingrid Philippens
  • Eric Vermetten
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 38)


Despite efforts to develop more effective therapies, PTSD remains a difficult disorder to treat. Insight into the dynamic nature of memory formation and its required molecular machinery can provide an opportunity to target pathological memories for emotionally arousing events. As memories become labile upon retrieval, novel information can update the strength and course of these consolidated memories. Targeting the process of reconsolidation may offer a relevant approach to attenuate fearful and traumatic memories. Specific molecular mechanisms that are required for reconsolidation of arousing information include an intact functioning of the glutamatergic signaling pathways and, more specifically, the integrity of NMDA receptors. Ketamine, a noncompetitive NMDA-receptor antagonist, is receiving increasing interest for a variety of psychiatric indications. This compound can also be an interesting candidate for targeting emotional memories. We explore whether single intravenous infusion of a subanesthetic dose of ketamine can be considered as a viable augmentation strategy for trauma-focused psychotherapy in patients with PTSD. As a consequence, a systematic approach is needed to assess the pharmacodynamic effects of ketamine in relation to both psychotherapy and its pharmacokinetics prior to its application in patient populations. By using a “question-based drug development plan,” we can explore such aspects for novel drugs, and we formulated five additional topics that need to be addressed concerning the psychotherapeutic approach and phase orientation of pharmacological assisted psychotherapy.


Consolidation Extinction learning Ketamine Memory Pharmacological assisted psychotherapy Posttraumatic stress disorder Reconsolidation 



We are grateful to Dr. A. Feder and J. Boonstra for their insightful comments. We are grateful to Elien Phernambucq for her support in designing the illustrations.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cato Veen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gabriel Jacobs
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ingrid Philippens
    • 3
  • Eric Vermetten
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryLeiden University Medical CenterLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Centre for Human Drug ResearchLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Biomedical Primate Research CentreRijswijkThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Arq Psychotrauma Research GroupDiemenThe Netherlands

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