Behavioral and neural analysis of extinction

Neuron. 2002 Nov 14;36(4):567-84. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)01064-4.


The neural mechanisms by which fear is inhibited are poorly understood at the present time. Behaviorally, a conditioned fear response may be reduced in intensity through a number of means. Among the simplest of these is extinction, a form of learning characterized by a decrease in the amplitude and frequency of a conditioned response when the conditioned stimulus that elicits it is repeatedly nonreinforced. Because clinical interventions for patients suffering from fear dysregulation seek to inhibit abnormal, presumably learned fear responses, an understanding of fear extinction is likely to inform and increase the efficacy of these forms of treatment. This review considers the behavioral, cellular, and molecular literatures on extinction and presents the most recent advances in our understanding while identifying issues that require considerable further research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / drug effects
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / metabolism


  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter