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Learn Mem. 2004 Sep-Oct;11(5):544-8.

Delayed recall of fear extinction in rats with lesions of ventral medial prefrontal cortex.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Ponce School of Medicine, Ponce, Puerto Rico 00732, USA.


Extinction of auditory fear conditioning is thought to form a new memory. We previously found that rats with vmPFC lesions could extinguish fear to the tone within a session, but showed no recall of extinction 24 h later. One interpretation is that the vmPFC is the sole storage site of extinction memory. However, it is also possible that lesioned rats were unable to retrieve extinction memory stored in other structures. To determine if a latent extinction memory could be retrieved with additional training, we repeated the experiment but added an additional 5 d of extinction reminder trials. Replicating our previous findings, vmPFC-lesioned rats extinguished normally on day 1, but showed no recall of extinction on day 2. Over the next 5 d, however, lesioned rats showed significant savings in their rate of re-extinction. Thus, the vmPFC is not the only site where extinction memory is stored. Nevertheless, lesioned rats receiving only two extinction trials per day required twice as many days to initiate extinction as controls. Although recall of extinction is possible without the vmPFC, it is significantly delayed. We suggest that the vmPFC accelerates extinction by permitting access to recently learned extinction trials, thereby maximizing behavioral flexibility.

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