Behavioral and neural mechanisms of latent inhibition

Dylan B. Miller, Madeleine M. Rassaby, Katherine A. Collins, Mohammad R. Milad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Fear is an adaptive emotion that serves to protect an organism against potential dangers. It is often studied using classical conditioning paradigms where a conditioned stimulus is paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus to induce a threat response. Less commonly studied is a phenomenon that is related to this form of conditioning, known as latent inhibition. Latent inhibition (LI) is a paradigm in which a neutral cue is repeatedly presented in the absence of any aversive associations. Subsequent pairing of this pre-exposed cue with an aversive stimulus typically leads to reduced expression of a conditioned fear/threat response. In this article, we review some of the theoretical basis for LI and its behavioral and neural mechanisms. We compare and contrast LI and fear/threat extinction-a process in which a previously conditioned cue is repeatedly presented in the absence of aversive outcomes. We end with highlighting the potential clinical utility of LI. Particularly, we focus on how LI application could be useful for enhancing resilience, especially for individuals who are more prone to continuous exposure to trauma and stressful environments, such as healthcare workers and first responders. The knowledge to be gained from advancing our understanding of neural mechanisms in latent inhibition could be applicable across psychiatric disorders characterized by exaggerated fear responses and impaired emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-47
Number of pages45
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


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