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DFG Research Unit 1581

Project Profile P2


The Role and Mechanisms of Synaptic Plasticity in Extinction


Extinction of procedural learning has been well characterized, and it is believed that it comprises new learning. However, with regard to extinction of declarative learning less is known.

We assume that extinction of declarative memory causes inhibition of the original learned information and, parallel, new learning that is modulated by the context (i.e. context-specific modification of the "old" memory). The hippocampus is of particular interest, as it is especially involved in the processing of declarative contextual information, and is a major structure for the encoding and processing of spatial information.

The objective of this project will be to address the abovementioned hypotheses, using a mechanistic and cellular approach to studying extinction. Our goal is to investigate whether extinction is accompanied by a neuronal "signature" that will help us test and extend the assumed hypotheses.



The experiments are designed to assess activity in the hippocampus when an animal explores and encodes a spatial contextual environment. We will monitor changes in these responses when the context of the environment is altered and extinction occurs.

Electrophysiological measures are taken that assess:

  • synaptic plasticity,
  • place cell firing and,
  • neuronal oscillations.

Subjects: Rodents


Cooperation within the Research Unit

  • This project offers a cellular and mechanistic approach to studying extinction that complements the behavioral, pharmacological and imaging approaches of P3 through P8
  • Project P1: Methodological and content-related similarities. Both projects record from the hippocampus during the learning process in free moving animals. A joint study on the electrophysiological analysis of extinction is planned.
  • Project P3: Collaborations are planned where technological and experimental support will be given in the area of EEG telemetry during extinction.
  • Project P5: Interactions in the area of neuromodulation of extinction.
  • Project P6: They also investigate the role of attention for the formation of renewal effects but using pharmacological manipulations. Here, we have the unique opportunity to compare very different treatments within the same experimental procedure.

Contact: In case of any questions regarding P2 please contact Prof. Dr. Denise Manahan-Vaughan


  • 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