US habituation, like CS extinction, produces a decrement in conditioned fear responding that is NMDA dependent and subject to renewal and reinstatement.Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2010 May; 93(4):463-71.NL
Just as fear can be learned, it can also be inhibited. The most common way of reducing learned fear is through extinction, where the conditioned stimulus (CS) previously paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US) is repeatedly presented on its own. Another, much less commonly studied, way to inhibit learned fear is by habituating, or devaluing, the US. In this procedure, fear responding to a CS is reduced by repeatedly presenting the US in the absence of the CS following the conditioning phase. The purpose of the present study was to directly compare the effects of US habituation and CS extinction on a learned fear response (freezing). Experiment 1 demonstrated that US habituation given either after (Experiment 1A) or before (Experiment 1B) fear conditioning reduced freezing to the CS at test. We then showed that the reduction in freezing resulting from either US habituation or CS extinction was context-specific (i.e., a change in context led to a renewal of the learned fear response; Experiment 2) and, furthermore, was attenuated when a pre-test shock was given (i.e., reinstatement of fear was observed in both cases; Experiment 3). Finally, Experiment 4 demonstrated that an injection of the NMDA antagonist MK-801 prior to US habituation impaired long-term retention of the learning that takes place during this procedure. Together, these results suggest that the decrement in conditioned fear responses produced by US habituation and CS extinction could rely on overlapping processes.