Counterconditioning following memory retrieval diminishes the reinstatement of appetitive memories in humans

Rani Gera, Segev Barak*, Tom Schonberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Appetitive memories play a crucial role in learning and behavior, but under certain circumstances, such memories become maladaptive and play a vital role in addiction and other psychopathologies. Recent scientific research has demonstrated that memories can be modified following their reactivation through memory retrieval in a process termed memory reconsolidation. Several nonpharmacological behavioral manipulations yielded mixed results in their capacity to alter maladaptive memories in humans. Here, we aimed to translate the promising findings observed in rodents to humans. We constructed a novel three-day procedure using aversive counterconditioning to alter appetitive memories after short memory retrieval. On the first day, we used appetitive conditioning to form appetitive memories. On the second day, we retrieved these appetitive memories in one group (Retrieval group) but not in a second group. Subsequently, all participants underwent counterconditioning. On the third day, we attempted to reinstate the appetitive memories from day one. We observed a significant reduction in the reinstatement of the original appetitive memory when counterconditioning was induced following memory retrieval. Here, we provide a novel human paradigm that models several memory processes and demonstrate memory attenuation when counterconditioned after its retrieval. This paradigm can be used to study complex appetitive memory dynamics, e.g., memory reconsolidation and its underlying brain mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9213
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019


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