C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice differ in extinction and renewal of extinguished conditioned fear.

Research paper by Jaylyn J Waddell, Claire C Dunnett, William A WA Falls

Indexed on: 18 Aug '04Published on: 18 Aug '04Published in: Behavioural Brain Research


While a number of studies have examined the acquisition and expression of conditioned fear in inbred mice, very few have examined extinction of conditioned fear in inbred mice and few attempts have been made to compare extinction learning between inbred strains. Because inbred strains differ in a number of physiological and biochemical variables, differences in extinction learning may provide insight into the genetic influence of extinction learning. The purpose of this study was to examine extinction and renewal of conditioned fear in two common inbred strains of mice. C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice were conditioned with pairings of either a tone or light and foot shock in a single session. On the following 4 days, mice were given extinction training, consisting of tone or light alone trials (Experiment 1A). C57 mice exhibited robust spontaneous recovery between sessions, but did extinguish both within and between sessions. DBA mice extinguished more quickly relative to C57 mice, and this extinction was stable between sessions (i.e., DBA mice did not exhibit spontaneous recovery). The rapid loss of fear in DBA relative to C57 mice was extinction-dependent and not merely due to poor long-term memory (Experiment 1B). Renewal testing (Experiment 2) replicated the strain difference in extinction and also showed that DBA mice have a deficit in the context specificity of extinction. C57 mice, but not DBA mice showed renewal of extinguished fear when tested in a context different from the one in which extinction training took place. These data suggest that the nature of extinction learning is influenced by characteristics of the inbred mouse strain.