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DFG Research Unit 1581

Approach – The Renewal Effect


Extinction is not simply the deletion of an acquired excitatory association but most likely, the acquisition of a second association inhibiting the former learned behavior.

This view of extinction as a form of inhibitory learning and new learning is supported by experimental data impressively demonstrating that a change of context after extinction causes a return of conditioned responses (CRs) to the conditioned stimulus (CS):

The “Renewal Effect”

The renewal-effect points to the importance of contextual cues that are able to modulate extinction. These contextual cues can either be external physical stimuli or internal cues such as hormones, immune factors, or emotions. Even the passage of time can be a valid and potent contextual factor.

The importance of context cues during extinction makes it likely that the initial acquisition is rather context-independent, while extinction is context-dependent (Bouton & King, 1983; Rosas & Bouton, 1997), indicating that acquisition and extinction are organized by different neural systems (Herry et al., 2008; Quirk and Mueller, 2008).

The most complete understanding of the neural basis of extinction learning is in the fear system of rodents (Quirk & Mueller 2008). We therefore review these insights to then develop our view of extinction learning in other systems.



  • SFB 1280 Extinction Learning - accepted! Read more: RUB news portal / DFG press release
  • SFB Extinction Learning evaluated successfully! Read more
  • Julian Packheiser receives treasure chest-support! Read more
  • Young Scientists enjoyed a Lab Day with our colleagues at the University of Marburg. Read more
  • Adriane Icenhour received the promotional price of the Faculty of Medicine! Read more
  • A day with Michelle Craske. Read more
  • Kid came to office: With a mobile nursery we support parents who need to take their children with them to the office in short term. Read more

 ♥ of the press

  • Cooperation with
    The online magazine presents in cooperation with FOR 1581 and SFB 636 extinction learning as one of the most exciting current research topics between mind and brain. Read more
  • E-Book on Extinction Learning
    To provide a most recent update on research on extinction learning, Denise Manahan-Vaughan, Onur Güntürkün and Oliver Wolf from the Ruhr-University came together to create an open-access Frontier Research Topic e-book.
    Don't forget...
    In everyday life we are continually confronted with situations where previously learned information is no longer valid – a phenomenon that psychologists refer to as “extinction learning”... forschung 04/2014
    German research 3/2015