Disruption of CB(1) receptor signaling through the use of CB(1) (-/-) mice or the CB(1) receptor antagonist rimonabant (SR141716) has been demonstrated to impair extinction of learned responses in conditioned fear and Morris water maze tasks. In contrast, CB(1) (-/-) mice exhibited normal extinction rates in an appetitively motivated operant conditioning task.
The purpose of this study was to test whether rimonabant would differentially disrupt extinction learning between fear-motivated and food-motivated tasks.
Separate groups of C57BL/6J mice were trained in two aversively motivated tasks, conditioned freezing and passive avoidance, and an appetitively motivated operant conditioning task at a fixed ratio (FR-5) schedule of food reinforcement. After acquisition, the respective reinforcers in each task were withheld, and an intraperitoneal injection of vehicle or rimonabant was given 30 min before each extinction session.
Rimonabant (3 mg/kg) treatment significantly disrupted extinction in both the conditioned freezing and passive avoidance tasks but failed to affect extinction rates in the operant conditioning task, whether using daily or weekly extinction sessions. Interestingly, rimonabant (3 mg/kg) prevented the significant increases in lever pressing (i.e., extinction burst) that occurred during the first extinction session of the operant conditioning task.
These results support the hypothesis that the CB(1) receptor plays a vital role in the extinction of aversive memories but is not essential for extinction of learned responses in appetitively motivated tasks.