Studies of contextual fear conditioning have found that ethanol administered prior to a conditioning session impairs the conditioned freezing response during a test session the next day. The present experiments examined the effects of ethanol on extinction, the loss of conditioned responding that occurs as the animal learns that a previously conditioned context no longer signals shock. Ethanol (1.5 g/kg) administered prior to single (Experiment 1) or multiple (Experiment 2) extinction sessions impaired extinction. Ethanol administered prior to a test session disrupted the expression of freezing after extinction (Experiments 3-5). There was some evidence that ethanol served as an internal stimulus signaling the operation of conditioning or extinction contingencies (Experiments 4-5). In Experiment 6, postsession injections of 1.5 g/kg ethanol had no effect on extinction with brief (3 min) or long (24 min) exposures to the context, but injections of 3 g/kg after long exposures impaired extinction. Together, these results indicate that ethanol affects extinction by acting on multiple learning and performance processes, including attention, memory encoding, and memory expression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Behavioral Neuroscience