To achieve greatest efficacy, therapies for attenuating fear and anxiety should preclude the re-emergence of emotional responses. Of relevance to this aim, preclinical models of threat memory reduction are considered to engage one of two discrete neural processes: either establishment of a new behavioral response that competes with, and thereby temporarily interferes with the expression of, threat memory (new learning) or one that modifies and thereby disrupts threat memory (unlearning). We contend that a strict dichotomy of new learning and unlearning does not provide a compelling explanation for current data. Instead, we suggest that the evidence warrants consideration of alternative models that assume cooperation rather than competition between formation of new cellular traces and the modification of preexisting ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-351
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2016


  • Engram
  • Extinction
  • Memory
  • Reconsolidation


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