Dynamic processing of taste aversion extinction in the brain

G Andrew Mickley, Cynthia L Kenmuir, Colleen A McMullen, Anna M Yocom, Elizabeth L Valentine, Christine M Dengler-Crish, Bettina Weber, Justin A Wellman, Dawn R Remmers-Roeber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


While substantial advances have been made in discovering how the brain learns and remembers, less is known about how the brain discards information, reorganizes information, or both. These topics are not only relevant to normal brain functioning but also speak to pathologies in which painful memories do not wane but are evoked time and again (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder; PTSD). Here, we measured brain activity (as indicated by the regional expression of c-Fos protein) in rats during acquisition and throughout extinction of a conditioned taste aversion (CTA). We compared that brain activity with animals that had intact CTA memories or those that experienced an explicitly unpaired (EU) conditioned stimulus (CS; saccharin, SAC) and unconditioned stimulus (US; lithium chloride, LiCl). The data show a dynamic and nonuniform pattern of c-Fos protein expression in brain nuclei known to mediate gustation and CTAs. In particular, brainstem nuclei (e.g., nucleus of the solitary tract; NTS) and the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) are active early as CTAs are formed and as extinction of the learned response begins. Later in the extinction process, the BLA reduces c-Fos expression relative to nonextinguished controls. Finally, as almost full reacceptance of the taste is achieved, the gustatory neocortex (GNC) expresses enhanced levels of c-Fos protein. Thus, extinction of a CTA is not represented by a simple reversal of the c-Fos activity evoked by CTA conditioning. Rather, the data demonstrate that extinction of conditioned responses is a dynamic process in which the activity levels of particular nuclei along the brain's taste pathway change depending on the extent to which the conditioned response has been extinguished.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-89
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 30 2004


  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning/physiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain/anatomy & histology
  • Cell Count/methods
  • Conditioning, Classical/physiology
  • Extinction, Psychological/physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation/physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry/methods
  • Lithium Chloride/metabolism
  • Male
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos/metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Saccharin/metabolism
  • Taste/physiology


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