Document Type


Publication Date



School of Medicine


Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience


Treatment for PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) is rarely available immediately after trauma and often delayed for weeks or months after an event. In a rabbit eyeblink conditioning model of PTSD, we have previously shown that presentations of a tone conditioned stimulus (CS) and shock unconditioned stimulus (US) in an explicitly unpaired manner known as unpaired extinction is effective in reducing CS responding and US hyperarousal even if shock intensity is reduced eight-fold and elicits only minimal responding. Here we determined if delayed delivery of unpaired extinction would still be effective in extinguishing hyperarousal. Rabbits were tested for sensitivity to shock before CS-US pairings and after six days of unpaired extinction presented a day, a week or a month after CS-US pairings. Hyperarousal was extinguished a day and a week after conditioning but not after a month suggesting a significant delay in “treatment” can make hyperarousal persist. We next assessed if this persistence of hyperarousal was associative by comparing rabbits given CS-US pairings to those given explicitly unpaired CS and US presentations, measuring hyperarousal a day and a month later, followed by unpaired extinction and hyperarousal assessment. After four weeks, there was an increase in responding for all rabbits but only rabbits receiving CS-US pairings showed a significant increase in associatively-mediated hyperarousal. Importantly, both paired and unpaired groups showed increased levels of responding after unpaired extinction suggesting treatment delayed for too long may no longer be effective and could cause generalized hyperarousal.

Source Citation

Schreurs BG, Smith-Bell CA, Burhans LB. Delayed unpaired extinction as a treatment for hyperarousal of the rabbit nictitating membrane response and its implications for treating PTSD. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2018;99:1-9. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2018.01.007