Extinction of fear conditioning in animals is an excellent model for the study of fear inhibition in humans. Substantial evidence has shown that extinction is a new learning process that is highly context-dependent. Several recovery effects (renewal, spontaneous recovery, and reinstatement) after extinction suggest that the contextual modulation of extinction is a critical behavioral mechanism underlying fear extinction. In addition, recent studies demonstrate a critical role for hippocampus in the context control of extinction. A growing body of evidence suggests that the hippocampus not only plays a role in contextual encoding and retrieval of fear extinction memories, but also interacts with other brain structures to regulate context-specificity of fear extinction. In this article, the authors will first discuss the fundamental behavioral features of the context effects of extinction and its underlying behavioral mechanisms. In the second part, the review will focus on the brain mechanisms for the contextual control of extinction.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.