Extinction of conditioned taste aversion is related to the aversion strength and associated with c-fos expression in the insular cortex.Neuroscience. 2015 Sep 10; 303:34-41.N
Taste aversion learning is a type of conditioning where animals learn to associate a novel taste (conditioned stimulus; CS) with a stimulus inducing symptoms of poisoning or illness (unconditioned stimulus; US). As a consequence animals later avoid this taste, a reaction known as conditioned taste aversion (CTA). An established CTA extinguishes over time when the CS is repeatedly presented in the absence of the US. However, inter-individual differences in CTA extinction do exist. Using a model of behavioral conditioning with saccharin as CS and the immunosuppressant cyclosporine A as US, the present study aimed at further elucidating the factors underlying individual differences in extinction learning by investigating whether extinction of an established CTA is related to the strength of the initially acquired CS-US association. In addition, we analyzed the expression of the neuronal activation marker c-fos in brain structures relevant for acquisition and retrieval of the CTA, such as the insular cortex and the amygdala. We here show that animals, displaying a strong CS-US association during acquisition, maintained a strong CTA during unreinforced CS re-exposures, in contrast to animals with moderate CS-US association. Moreover, the latter animals showed increased c-fos mRNA expression in the insular cortex. Our data indicate that CTA extinction apparently depends on the strength of the initially learned CS-US association. In addition, these findings provide further evidence that the memory for the initial excitatory conditioning and its subsequent extinction is probably stored in those structures that participate in the processing of the CS and the US.