Brexpiprazole blocks post-traumatic stress disorder-like memory while promoting normal fear memory

Eva-Gunnel Ducourneau, Christelle Guette, Damien Perrot, Miguel Mondesir, Cédric Mombereau, Jorn Arnt, Aline Desmedt & Pier-Vincenzo Piazza
Molecular Psychiatry. 2020-08-19; :
DOI: 10.1038/s41380-020-0852-z

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A cardinal feature of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a long-lasting paradoxical alteration of memory with hypermnesia for salient traumatic cues and amnesia for peri-traumatic contextual cues. So far, pharmacological therapeutic approach of this stress-related disorder is poorly developed mainly because of the lack of animal model for this paradoxical memory alteration. Using a model that precisely recapitulates the two memory components of PTSD in mice, we tested if brexpiprazole, a new antipsychotic drug with pro-cognitive effects in rodents, may persistently prevent the expression of PTSD-like memory induced by injection of corticosterone immediately after fear conditioning. Acute administration of brexpiprazole (0.3 mg/kg) 7 days’ post-trauma first blocks the expression of the maladaptive fear memory for a salient but irrelevant trauma-related cue. In addition, it enhances (with superior efficacy when compared to diazepam, prazosin, and escitalopram) memory for the traumatic context, correct predictor of the threat. This beneficial effect of brexpiprazole is overall maintained 1 week after treatment. In contrast brexpiprazole fully spares normal/adaptive cued fear memory, showing that the effect of this drug is specific to an abnormal/maladaptive (PTSD-like) fear memory of a salient cue. Finally, this treatment not only promotes the switch from PTSD-like to normal fear memory, but also normalizes most of the alterations in the hippocampal–amygdalar network activation associated with PTSD-like memory, as measured by C-Fos expression. Altogether, these preclinical data indicate that brexpiprazole could represent a new pharmacological treatment of PTSD promoting the normalization of traumatic memory.

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