A randomized trial of an NMDA receptor antagonist for reversing corticosteroid effects on the human hippocampus

E. Sherwood Brown, Alexandra Kulikova, Erin A Van Enkevort, Alyson Nakamura, Elena I. Ivleva, Nicholas J. Tustison, Jared Roberts, Michael A. Yassa, Changho Choi, Alan Frol, David A. Khan, Miguel Vazquez, Traci Holmes, Kendra Malone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Preclinical and clinical research indicates that excess corticosteroid is associated with adverse effects on the hippocampus. Animal model data suggest that N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists may block corticosteroid effect on the hippocampus. This translational clinical trial investigated the effect of memantine vs. placebo on hippocampal subfield volume in humans receiving chronic corticosteroid therapy. Men and women (N = 46) receiving chronic prescription corticosteroid therapy were randomized to memantine or placebo in a double-blind, crossover design (two 24-week treatment periods, separated by a 4-week washout) for 52 weeks. Structural magnetic resonance imaging was obtained at baseline and after each treatment. Data were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance. Mean corticosteroid dose was 7.69 ± 6.41 mg/day and mean duration 4.90 ± 5.61 years. Controlling for baseline volumes, the left DG/CA3 region was significantly larger following memantine than placebo (p =.011). The findings suggest that an NMDA receptor antagonist attenuates corticosteroid effect in the same hippocampal subfields in humans as in animal models. This finding has both mechanistic and clinical implications. Attenuation of the effect of corticosteroids on the human DG/CA3 region implicates the NMDA receptor in human hippocampal volume losses with corticosteroids. In addition, by suggesting a drug class that may, at least in part, block the effects of corticosteroids on the human DG/CA3 subfield, these results may have clinical relevance for people receiving prescription corticosteroids, as well as to those with cortisol elevations due to medical or psychiatric conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2263-2267
Number of pages5
Issue number13
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'A randomized trial of an NMDA receptor antagonist for reversing corticosteroid effects on the human hippocampus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this