ABA Renewal Is Greater When Extinction Occurs in the Same Context as Cue Pre-Exposure

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Renewal has been observed in several protocols. One, termed ABA, trains a conditioned stimulus (CS) in one context, A, extinguishes the CS in a second context, B, and tests either in A or B. We used between- and within-subjects designs in three experiments with rats to study how a history of cue pre-exposure affects extinction and renewal of conditioned fear responses (freezing). In each experiment, a stimulus was pre-exposed in either context B or context C, paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US) in a third context, A, extinguished in B, and finally tested in A. Freezing declined at the same rate when extinction occurred in the same or a different context as pre-exposure in between-subjects designs (Experiments 1 and 2), but declined faster when extinction and pre-exposure occurred in the same than in a different context in a within-subjects design (Experiment 3). In each experiment, renewal of freezing responses in the conditioning context, A, was greater when subjects were tested with the CS extinguished in its pre-exposure context than with the CS extinguished outside its pre-exposure context. The results were interpreted to mean that what was learned about the context–stimulus relation in pre-exposure enhanced control by that context over what was learned in extinction, thereby enhancing renewal when the rats were returned to the conditioning context for testing.

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