Behavioral and immunohistochemical characterization of rapid reconditioning following extinction of contextual fear

Amy R. Williams, Earnest S. Kim, K. Matthew Lattal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A fundamental property of extinction is that the behavior that is suppressed during extinction can be unmasked through a number of postextinction procedures. Of the commonly studied unmasking procedures (spontaneous recovery, reinstatement, contextual renewal, and rapid reacquisition), rapid reacquisition is the only approach that allows a direct comparison between the impact of a conditioning trial before or after extinction. Thus, it provides an opportunity to evaluate the ways in which extinction changes a subsequent learning experience. In five experiments, we investigate the behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms of postextinction reconditioning. We show that rapid reconditioning of unsignaled contextual fear after extinction in male Long–Evans rats is associative and not affected by the number or duration of extinction sessions that we examined. We then evaluate c-Fos expression and histone acetylation (H4K8) in the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. We find that in general, initial conditioning has a stronger impact on c-Fos expression and acetylation than does reconditioning after extinction. We discuss implications of these results for theories of extinction and the neurobiology of conditioning and extinction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-402
Number of pages16
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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