Genetic disruptions of Drosophila Pavlovian learning leave extinction learning intact


*J. Dubnau, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1 Bungtown Road, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA.


Individuals who experience traumatic events may develop persistent posttraumatic stress disorder. Patients with this disorder are commonly treated with exposure therapy, which has had limited long-term success. In experimental neurobiology, fear extinction is a model for exposure therapy. In this behavioral paradigm, animals are repeatedly exposed in a safe environment to the fearful stimulus, which leads to greatly reduced fear. Studying animal models of extinction already has lead to better therapeutic strategies and development of new candidate drugs. Lack of a powerful genetic model of extinction, however, has limited progress in identifying underlying molecular and genetic factors. In this study, we established a robust behavioral paradigm to study the short-term effect (acquisition) of extinction in Drosophila melanogaster. We focused on the extinction of olfactory aversive 1-day memory with a task that has been the main workhorse for genetics of memory in flies. Using this paradigm, we show that extinction can inhibit each of two genetically distinct forms of consolidated memory. We then used a series of single-gene mutants with known impact on associative learning to examine the effects on extinction. We find that extinction is intact in each of these mutants, suggesting that extinction learning relies on different molecular mechanisms than does Pavlovian learning.