Glutamatergic modulation of auditory information processing in the human brain

Handan Gunduz-Bruce, Robert M G Reinhart, Brian J Roach, Ralitza Gueorguieva, Stephen Oliver, Deepak C D'Souza, Judith M Ford, John H Krystal, Daniel H Mathalon
Biological Psychiatry 2012 June 1, 71 (11): 969-77

BACKGROUND: Auditory mismatch negativity (MMN) and P300 event-related potentials (ERPs) are reduced in schizophrenia patients and healthy volunteers administered the N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptor antagonist, ketamine. In rodents, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a stimulator of the cystine-glutamate exchanger, attenuates the cognitive and behavioral effects of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists. On the basis of these findings, we tested whether NAC would reduce ketamine effects on behavior, MMN, and P300 in healthy humans.

METHODS: This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study consisted of 2 test days during which subjects (n = 16) were administered oral NAC (3000 mg in divided doses) or matching placebo 165 min before the infusion of saline and then ketamine (as a bolus of .23 mg/kg over 1 min followed by .58 mg/kg for 30 min, and then .29 mg/kg for 40 min) in a fixed order. Behavioral and ERP data including auditory MMN and P300 were collected during each test day.

RESULTS: Ketamine produced psychotic-like positive symptoms, reductions in working memory and sustained attention performance, and amplitude reductions for the frequency- and intensity-deviant MMNs and P300. NAC pretreatment did not reduce the behavioral or ERP effects of ketamine. In addition, NAC reduced frequency-deviant MMN amplitude and increased target and novelty P3 amplitudes. The decrements in frequency-deviant MMN amplitude produced by ketamine and NAC were not additive.

CONCLUSIONS: NAC did not attenuate the effects of ketamine in humans, in contrast to previous studies in animals. NAC merits further investigation as a cognitive enhancing agent due to its ability to increase the P300 amplitude.

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