Contextual and temporal modulation of extinction: behavioral and biological mechanisms

Biol Psychiatry. 2006 Aug 15;60(4):352-60. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.12.015. Epub 2006 Apr 17.


Extinction depends, at least partly, on new learning that is specific to the context in which it is learned. Several behavioral phenomena (renewal, reinstatement, spontaneous recovery, and rapid reacquisition) suggest the importance of context in extinction. The present article reviews research on the behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms of contextual influences on extinction learning and retrieval. Contexts appear to select or retrieve the current relationship of the conditional stimulus (CS) with the unconditional stimulus (US), and they are provided by physical background cues, interoceptive drug cues, emotions, recent trials, and the passage of time. The current article pays particular attention to the effects of recent trials and trial spacing. Control of fear extinction by physical context involves interactions between the dorsal hippocampus and the lateral nucleus of the amygdala. This interaction may be mediated by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic and adrenergic mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Environment
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid