The Memory System Engaged During Acquisition Determines the Effectiveness of Different Extinction Protocols.
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Previous research indicates that extinction of rodent maze behavior may occur without explicit performance of the previously acquired response. In latent extinction, confining an animal to a previously rewarded goal location without reinforcement is typically sufficient to produce extinction of maze learning. However, previous studies have not determined whether latent extinction may be successfully employed to extinguish all types of memory acquired in the maze, or whether only specific types of memory may be vulnerable to latent extinction. The present study examined whether latent extinction may be effective across two plus-maze tasks that depend on anatomically distinct neural systems. Adult male Long-Evans rats were trained in a hippocampus-dependent place learning task (Experiment 1), in which animals were trained to approach a consistent spatial location for food reward. A separate group of rats were trained in a dorsolateral striatum-dependent response learning task (Experiment 2), in which animals were trained to make a consistent egocentric body-turn response for food reward. Following training, animals received response extinction or latent extinction. For response extinction, animals were given the opportunity to execute the original running approach response toward the empty food cup. For latent extinction, animals were confined to the original goal locations with the empty food cup, thus preventing them from making the original running approach response. Results indicate that, relative to no extinction, latent extinction was effective at extinguishing memory in the place learning task, but remained ineffective in the response learning task. In contrast, typical response extinction remained very effective at extinguishing memory in both place and response learning tasks. The present findings confirm that extinction of maze learning may occur with or without overt performance of the previously acquired response, but that the effectiveness of latent extinction may depend on the type of memory being extinguished. The findings suggest that behavioral treatments modeled after response extinction protocols may be especially useful in alleviating human psychopathologies involving striatum-dependent memory processes (e.g., drug addiction and relapse).