Spontaneous recovery in Pavlovian fear extinction and latent inhibition

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Copyright: Leung, Hiu Tin
The experiments reported in the present thesis examined the behavioural processes of Pavlovian fear extinction and latent inhibition. The first series of experiments studied the reacquisition of extinguished fear responses following different amounts of extinction training. Rapid reacquisition occurred when rats were reconditioned after moderate extinction, showing that the original learning remained intact across this extinction. In contrast, when reconditioning was given after massive extinction, reconditioned responding was first depressed but then spontaneously recovered over time. This suggests that massive extinction produces a relatively permanent loss of the originally learned responding, while additionally imposes on the extinguished CS a transient latent inhibitory process that prevented the immediate but not the delayed expression of reconditioning. The second series of experiments studied the impact of spontaneous recovery of extinguished fear responses on their additional extinction. These experiments demonstrated that a CS that had time to show spontaneous recovery underwent greater response loss across additional extinction than one lacking recovery. They also showed that an excitor extinguished in compound with a CS showing recovery suffered greater response loss than an excitor extinguished in compound with a CS lacking recovery. Further, extinction of a compound composed of two CSs, one showing recovery and a second lacking recovery, produced greater extinction to the CS that showed recovery. These results show that spontaneous recovery of extinguished responses deepens their extinction through an error-correction mechanism regulated by both common and individual error terms. The third series of experiments studied the spontaneous recovery of latently inhibited and extinguished fear responses in within-subject designs. Using a compound test procedure, a CS that had received extensive preexposure or extensive extinction was found to have undergone greater spontaneous recovery relative to a CS just moderately preexposed or moderately extinguished. A CS given a mixed history of preexposure and extinction also underwent greater recovery relative to a CS just preexposed or just extinguished. These results suggest that both latent inhibition and extinction share a transient depressive process, and that the resulting recovery of responding is proportional to the amount of this depression.
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Leung, Hiu Tin
Westbrook, R. Frederick
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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