Attenuating human fear memory retention with minocycline : a randomized placebo-controlled trial

Pavlovian fear conditioning is widely used as a pre-clinical model to investigate methods for prevention and treatment of anxiety and stress-related disorders. In this model, fear memory consolidation is thought to require synaptic remodeling, which is induced by signaling cascades involving matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9). Here we investigated the effect of the tetracycline antibiotic minocycline, an inhibitor of MMP-9, on fear memory retention. We conducted a pre-registered, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in N = 105 healthy humans (N = 70 female), using a configural fear conditioning paradigm. We administered a single dose of minocycline before configural fear memory acquisition and assessed fear memory retention seven days later in a recall test. To index memory retention, we pre-registered fear-potentially startle (FPS) as our primary outcome, and pupil dilation as the secondary outcome.


As control indices of memory acquisition, we analyzed skin conductance responses (SCR) and pupil dilation. We observed attenuated retention of configural fear memory in individuals treated with minocycline compared to placebo, as measured by our primary outcome. In contrast, minocycline did not affect fear memory acquisition or declarative contingency memory. Our findings provide in-vivo evidence for the inhibition of fear memory consolidation by minocycline. This could motivate further research into primary prevention, and given the short uptake time of minocycline, potentially also secondary prevention of PTSD after trauma.

Yanfang Xia, Jelena Wehrli, Aslan Abivardi, Madalina Hostiuc, Birgit Kleim & Dominik R. Bach | 2024
In: Translational Psychiatry ; ISSN: 2158-3188 | 14 | 28
Adults, Fear, Memory, Neurobiology, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Prevention, Psychopharmacology, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Randomized Clinical Trial, Statistical Analysis, Treatment