Extinguishing a conditioned response (CR) has entailed separating the conditioned stimulus (CS) from the unconditioned stimulus (US). This research reveals that elimination of the rabbit nictitating membrane response occurred during continuous CS-US pairings. Initial training contained a mixture of 2 CS-US interstimulus intervals (ISIs), 150 ms and 500 ms. The CRs showed double peaks, one for each ISI. When the 150-ms ISI was removed, its CR peak showed 2 hallmarks of extinction: a decline across sessions and spontaneous recovery between sessions. When a further stage of training was introduced with a distinctive CS using the 150-ms ISI, occasional tests of the original, extinguished CS revealed another hallmark of extinction, specifically, strong recovery of the 150-ms peak. These results support both abstract and cerebellar models of conditioning that encode the CS into a cascade of microstimuli, while challenging theories of extinction that rely on changes in CS processing, US representations, and contextual control.
- interstimulus interval