Sex differences in the immediate extinction deficit and renewal of extinguished fear in rats. Academic Article uri icon


  • Extinction learning is central to exposure-based behavioral therapies for reducing fear and anxiety in humans. However, patients with fear and anxiety disorders are often resistant to extinction. Moreover, trauma and stress-related disorders are highly prone to relapse and are twice as likely to occur in females compared to males, suggesting that females may be more susceptible to extinction deficits and fear relapse phenomena. In this report, we tested this hypothesis by examining sex differences in a stress-induced extinction learning impairment, the immediate extinction deficit (IED), and renewal, a common form of fear relapse. In contrast to our hypothesis, there were no sex differences in the magnitude of the immediate extinction deficit in two different rat strains (Long-Evans and Wistar). However, we did observe a sex difference in the renewal of fear when the extinguished conditioned stimulus was presented outside the extinction context. Male Wistar rats exhibited significantly greater renewal than female rats, a sex difference that has previously been reported after appetitive extinction. Collectively, these data reveal that stress-induced extinction impairments are similar in male and female rats, though the context-dependence of extinction is more pronounced in males.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 9.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Binette, A. N., Totty, M. S., & Maren, S.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Binette, Annalise N||Totty, Michael S||Maren, Stephen

editor list (cited editors)

  • Helmstetter, F. J.

publication date

  • January 2022