Project B01: Finding the good in the bad: fear extinction reconceptualized as an appetitive learning process

Principal Investigators

Sevil Duvarci, Ph.D.

Group Leader

Prof. Dr. Raffael Kalisch

Professor and Director of Neuroimaging Center Mainz (NIC)

Group Leader at LIR

Project Team

Our Research

The project investigates whether extinction can be understood as a prediction error-based reward learning process where the positive experience that an expected threat (e.g., a shock) does not occur (the extinction prediction error) is mediated by phasic dopamine release from mesoaccumbal neurons. Phasic optogenetic activation and inhibition of dopamine neuron activity at the time of threat ommission in mice are complemented by systemic pharmacological manipulations in combination with computational modeling of behavioral and fMRI data in humans.


Kalisch R, Gerlicher AMV, Duvarci S (2019) A dopaminergic basis for fear extinction. Trends Cogn Sci 23(4):274−277.

>> Link to PubMed

Salinas-Hernández XI, Vogel P, Betz S, Kalisch R, Sigurdsson T, Duvarci S (2018) Dopamine neurons drive fear extinction learning by signaling the omission of expected aversive outcomes. eLife 7:e38818. doi: 10.7554/eLife.38818

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Haaker J, Lonsdorf TB, Schümann D, Bunzeck N, Peters J, Sommer T, Kalisch R (2017) Where There is Smoke There is Fear-Impaired Contextual Inhibition of Conditioned Fear in Smokers. Neuropsychopharmacology 42(8):1640-1646.

>> Link to PubMed