Evidence of a role for multiple memory systems in behavioral extinction.
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The acquisition of learned behavior involves multiple memory systems, and hippocampal system damage impairs cognitive learning while leaving stimulus-response habit learning intact. In view of evidence that extinction also involves new learning, the present experiments examined whether multiple memory systems theory may be applicable to the neural bases of extinction. Adult Long-Evans rats were trained to run in a straight-alley maze for food reward. Twenty-four hours later, rats matched for runway latencies during acquisition received extinction training. In a response extinction condition conducive to habit learning, rats performed a runway approach response to an empty food cup. In a latent extinction condition conducive to cognitive learning, rats were placed at an empty food cup without performing a runway approach response. Prior to daily extinction training, neural activity of the dorsal hippocampus was reversibly inactivated via infusion of bupivacaine (0.75%, 0.5 microl/side). Control rats receiving saline infusions displayed extinction behavior in both the response and latent training conditions. In contrast, rats receiving bupivacaine extinguished normally in the response condition, but did not display latent extinction. The findings (1) confirm that learning underlying extinction of the same overt behavior can occur with or without explicit performance of the previously acquired response, (2) indicate that extinction learning produced by response and latent training procedures can be neuroanatomically dissociated, and (3) suggest that similarly to initial task acquisition, the hippocampus may critically mediate extinction in situations requiring the use of cognitive learning, such as when performance of a previously acquired response habit is prevented.