General Pavlovian-instrumental transfer tests reveal selective inhibition of the response type – whether Pavlovian or instrumental – performed during extinction

Vincent Laurent, Progya Priya, Byron E. Crimmins, Bernard W. Balleine

Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Volume 183, 107483

July 2021


The present experiments examined whether extinction of a stimulus predicting food affects the ability of that stimulus to energize instrumental performance to obtain food. We first used a general Pavlovian instrumental transfer (PIT) paradigm in which rats were first given Pavlovian conditioning with a stimulus predicting one type of food outcome and were then trained to lever press for a different food outcome. We found that the Pavlovian stimulus enhanced performance of the lever press response and that this enhancement was preserved after extinction of that stimulus (Experiment 1) even when the context was manipulated to favor the expression of extinction (Experiment 2). Next, we assessed whether extinction influenced the excitatory effect of a stimulus when it was trained as a discriminative stimulus. Extinction of this stimulus alone had no effect on its ability to control instrumental performance; however, when extinguished with its associated lever press response, discriminative control was lost (Experiments 3 and 4). Finally, after instrumental and Pavlovian training, we extinguished a Pavlovian stimulus predicting one food outcome with a lever press response that delivered a different outcome. In a general PIT test, we found this extinction abolished the ability of the Pavlovian stimulus to elevate responding on a lever trained with a different outcome, revealing for the first time that extinction can abolish the general PIT effect. We conclude that extinction can produce an inhibitory association between the stimulus and the general response type, whether Pavlovian or instrumental, performed during the extinction training.