d-cycloserine reverses the detrimental effects of stress on learning in females and enhances retention in males

Jaylyn Waddell, Elyse Mallimo, Tracey Shors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Exposure to acute, inescapable stress produces a facilitation of subsequent classical eyeblink conditioning in male rats. The same stress exposure produces a profound deficit in classical eyeblink conditioning in females. Activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDAr) is necessary for the effect of stress on learning in males while the contribution of NMDAr activation to the deficit in learning after stress is unknown. Here, we tested the influence of d-cycloserine (DCS), a positive modulator of the NMDAr, in stressed or unstressed male and female rats. Groups of males and females were exposed to an acute stressful event. One day later, they began training with four sessions of trace eyeblink conditioning. Each day before training, they were injected with DCS (15 mg/kg) or saline. Females treated with DCS during training responded similarly to those that were untreated. However, those that were stressed and the next day treated with the drug during training did not express the typical learning deficit, i.e. they learned to time the CR very well. Because the drug was administered well after the stressor, these data indicate that DCS reversed the negative effects of stress on learning in females. In males, the effect of DCS was subtle, resulting in higher asymptotic responding, and enhanced retention in a drug-free retention test. Thus, as shown previously, training in the presence of an NMDA receptor agonist enhances associative learning and memory retention. In addition, it can reverse learning deficits that have already been induced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-36
Number of pages6
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Eyeblink conditioning
  • Glutamate
  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • Sex differences
  • Stress
  • d-cycloserine


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