Neurochemical and molecular mechanisms underlying the retrieval-extinction effect

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2019 Jan;236(1):111-132. doi: 10.1007/s00213-018-5121-3. Epub 2019 Jan 17.


Extinction within the reconsolidation window, or 'retrieval-extinction', has received much research interest as a possible technique for targeting the reconsolidation of maladaptive memories with a behavioural intervention. However, it remains to be determined whether the retrieval-extinction effect-a long-term reduction in fear behaviour, which appears resistant to spontaneous recovery, renewal and reinstatement-depends specifically on destabilisation of the original memory (the 'reconsolidation-update' account) or represents facilitation of an extinction memory (the 'extinction-facilitation' account). We propose that comparing the neurotransmitter systems, receptors and intracellular signalling pathways recruited by reconsolidation, extinction and retrieval-extinction will provide a way of distinguishing between these accounts.

Keywords: Behaviour; Extinction; Memory; Reconsolidation; Retrieval-Extinction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Receptors, Dopamine / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism


  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate