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Psychophysiology. 2005 Jul;42(4):456-64.

Context modulation of memory for fear extinction in humans.

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Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


Distinct memories are formed during fear conditioning and subsequent extinction. In animals, the expression of the latter is gated by the context. The recall of extinction memory after a long delay, and the contextual modulation thereof, has not been directly tested in humans. Mentally healthy volunteers underwent a 2-day fear conditioning and extinction protocol that examined the recall of extinction memory and its relationship to context. Conditioned stimuli were paired with an aversive electric shock in one visual context and extinguished in a different context. Extinction recall and renewal were examined 24 h after training. We found that skin conductance responses were small when the conditioned stimulus was presented in the extinction context, but responses were renewed when the conditioned stimulus was presented in the conditioning context. This finding demonstrates context dependency of extinction recall in humans.

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