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Learn Mem. 2010 Dec 14;18(1):1-10. doi: 10.1101/lm.1923211. Print 2011 Jan.

Deepened extinction following compound stimulus presentation: noradrenergic modulation.

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  • 1Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, University of California at San Francisco, Emeryville, California 94608, USA.


Behavioral extinction is an active form of new learning involving the prediction of nonreward where reward has previously been present. The expression of extinction learning can be disrupted by the presentation of reward itself or reward-predictive stimuli (reinstatement) as well as the passage of time (spontaneous recovery) or contextual changes (renewal). The following experiments replicated the demonstration that presenting multiple previously rewarded stimuli in compound during extinction enhances extinction learning. To explore the pharmacological basis for this we next examined the effects of pharmacological treatments that either facilitated or blocked noradrenergic activity to test the hypothesis that increased noradrenergic activity at the time of extinction training would improve, whereas blockade of noradrenergic activity would impair the extinction of appetitive stimulus-reward memories. Different groups of rats were trained in a discriminative stimulus paradigm to lever-press for food reward. Once stable responding was achieved, responding was extinguished for 2 d. Prior to a third extinction session, rats received systemic administration of either saline, yohimbine (α2 antagonist), atomoxetine (norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), or propranolol (β-receptor antagonist). Spontaneous recovery of responding to the stimuli was tested 4 wk later. Our results indicate that increasing noradrenergic activity during extinction augments extinction learning resulting in less recovery of responding at test. These results have important implications for models of relapse to drug seeking and the development of extinction-based therapies.

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