Many accounts of memory suggest that an initial learning experience initiates a cascade of cellular and molecular events that are required for the consolidation of memory from a labile into a more permanent state. Studies of memory in many species have routinely found that altered gene activity and new protein synthesis are the critical components of this memory consolidation process. During extinction, when organisms learn that previously established relations between stimuli have been severed, new memories are formed and consolidated. However, the nature of the learning that underlies extinction remains unclear and there are many processes that may contribute to the weakening of behavior that occurs during extinction. In this review, we suggest that the molecular mechanisms that underlie extinction may differ depending on the learning process that is engaged by extinction. We review evidence that extinction, like initial learning, requires transcription and translation, as well as evidence that extinction occurs when protein synthesis is inhibited. We suggest that extinction occurs through the interaction of multiple behavioral and molecular mechanisms.
Keywords: Extinction, memory, Lymnaea, molecular mechanisms, behavioral mechanisms