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WipeOutFear SIGNED

How the Brain Learns to Forget - The Neural Signature of Fear Memory Erasure

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "WipeOutFear" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
address: OUDE MARKT 13
city: LEUVEN
postcode: 3000

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country Belgium [BE]
 Project website
 Total cost 2˙000˙000 €
 EC max contribution 2˙000˙000 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2014-CoG
 Funding Scheme ERC-COG
 Starting year 2015
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2015-09-01   to  2021-08-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN BE (LEUVEN) coordinator 2˙000˙000.00


 Project objective

Can fear memories be erased from the brain? While it sounds like science fiction, recent findings suggest that fear memories can be undone upon their retrieval, through either pharmacological or behavioural interventions. Still, whether such reconsolidation interference techniques genuinely result in permanent erasure of the original fear memory is a topic of considerable controversy. Purely behavioural work may never settle the debate, as it cannot be excluded that an apparent loss of fear memory reflects a long-lasting failure to retrieve the fear memory rather than its permanent erasure. We argue that a careful look at the brain memory circuits that control the reduced expression of fear after reconsolidation interference, through imaging studies in humans and inactivation studies in rats, does have the potential to resolve the controversy and decide between erasure and retrieval failure as mechanisms underlying reconsolidation interference [WP1]. To open up a memory trace for reconsolidation interference, it is important that retrieval of the memory is accompanied by surprise or prediction error (PE; a discrepancy between the memory and what actually happens), as we demonstrated in a break-through study in Science (Sevenster, Beckers, & Kindt, 2013). Here, we propose that subtle differences in the degree of PE generated during fear memory retrieval may be what demarcates memory erasure from impaired retrieval. To investigate that claim, we will pioneer an objective neural marker of PE in humans [WP2] and use optogenetics to directly trigger dopamine-based PE signals in the rat brain in order to establish the causal role of PE in enabling fear memory erasure. Along the way, we will investigate the generalization of fear to novel cues as both a problem and a potential target for fear memory modification [WP3] and test an innovative method to interfere with reconsolidation that circumvents limitations of current pharmacological and behavioural techniques [WP4].


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2017 Laura Luyten, Tom Beckers
A preregistered, direct replication attempt of the retrieval-extinction effect in cued fear conditioning in rats
published pages: 208-215, ISSN: 1074-7427, DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2017.07.014
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 144 2020-01-15
2018 Elisa Maes, Angelos-Miltiadis Krypotos, Yannick Boddez, Joaquín Matías Alfei Palloni, Rudi D\'Hooge, Jan De Houwer, Tom Beckers
Failures to replicate blocking are surprising and informative—Reply to Soto (2018).
published pages: 603-610, ISSN: 0096-3445, DOI: 10.1037/xge0000413
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 147/4 2020-01-15
2017 Roque I. Ferrer Monti, Joaquín M. Alfei, Matías Mugnaini, Adrián M. Bueno, Tom Beckers, Gonzalo P. Urcelay, Victor A. Molina
A comparison of behavioral and pharmacological interventions to attenuate reactivated fear memories
published pages: 369-374, ISSN: 1549-5485, DOI: 10.1101/lm.045385.117
Learning & Memory 24/8 2020-01-15
2019 Natalie Schroyens, Crhistian Luis Bender, Joaquín Matias Alfei, Victor Alejandro Molina, Laura Luyten, Tom Beckers
Post-weaning housing conditions influence freezing during contextual fear conditioning in adult rats
published pages: 172-180, ISSN: 0166-4328, DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2018.10.040
Behavioural Brain Research 359 2020-01-15
2018 Kelly Luyck, Travis D. Goode, Haemy Lee Masson, Laura Luyten
Distinct Activity Patterns of the Human Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis and Amygdala during Fear Learning
published pages: , ISSN: 1040-7308, DOI: 10.1007/s11065-018-9383-7
Neuropsychology Review 2020-01-15
2017 Angelos-Miltiadis Krypotos, Tessa Blanken, Inna Arnaudova, Dora Matzke, Tom Beckers
A Primer on Bayesian Analysis for Experimental Psychopathologists
published pages: 140-157, ISSN: 2043-8087, DOI: 10.5127/jep.057316
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology 8 2020-01-15
2017 Tom Beckers, Michelle G. Craske
Avoidance and decision making in anxiety: An introduction to the special issue
published pages: 1-2, ISSN: 0005-7967, DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2017.05.009
Behaviour Research and Therapy 96 2020-01-15
2017 Natalie Schroyens, Tom Beckers, Merel Kindt
In Search for Boundary Conditions of Reconsolidation: A Failure of Fear Memory Interference
published pages: 65, ISSN: 1662-5153, DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00065
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 11 2020-01-15
2017 Tom Beckers, Merel Kindt
Memory Reconsolidation Interference as an Emerging Treatment for Emotional Disorders: Strengths, Limitations, Challenges, and Opportunities
published pages: 99-121, ISSN: 1548-5943, DOI: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032816-045209
Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 13/1 2020-01-15
2017 Laura Luyten, Shauni Nuyts, Tom Beckers
Low-dose systemic scopolamine disrupts context conditioning in rats
published pages: 667-673, ISSN: 0269-8811, DOI: 10.1177/0269881117699614
Journal of Psychopharmacology 31/6 2020-01-15

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