Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

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  • Ventral hippocampus mediates inter-trial responses in signaled active avoidance

  • Ventral hippocampus DREADD activation drives inter-trial responding across contexts

  • Context fear reduction through extinction does not reduce inter-trial responses


The hippocampus has a central role in regulating contextual processes in memory. We have shown that pharmacological inactivation of ventral hippocampus (VH) attenuates the context-dependence of signaled active avoidance (SAA) in rats. Here, we explore whether the VH mediates intertrial responses (ITRs), which are putative unreinforced avoidance responses that occur between trials. First, we examined whether VH inactivation would affect ITRs. Male rats underwent SAA training and subsequently received intra-VH infusions of saline or muscimol before retrieval tests in the training context. Rats that received muscimol performed significantly fewer ITRs, but equivalent avoidance responses, compared to controls. Next, we asked whether chemogenetic VH activation would increase ITR vigor. In male and female rats expressing excitatory (hM3Dq) DREADDs, systemic CNO administration produced a robust ITR increase that was not due to nonspecific locomotor effects. Then, we examined whether chemogenetic VH activation potentiated ITRs in an alternate (non-training) test context and found it did. Finally, to determine if context-US associations mediate ITRs, we exposed rats to the training context for three days after SAA training to extinguish the context. Rats submitted to context extinction did not show a reliable decrease in ITRs during a retrieval test, suggesting that context-US associations are not responsible for ITRs. Collectively, these results reveal an important role for the VH in context-dependent ITRs during SAA. Further work is required to explore the neural circuits and associative basis for these responses, which may be underlie pathological avoidance that occurs in humans after threat has passed.


Graduate Research Assistant. Original published version available at

Publication Title

Behavioural Brain Research



Available for download on Thursday, November 20, 2025

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