Spontaneous recovery is defined as the reinstatement of the conditioned response following a time of rest or reduced responsiveness. If the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli are no longer linked, extinction will occur extremely quickly following a spontaneous recovery. Spontaneous recovery occurs because the connection between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus is reinstated.
In order for a conditioned response to be extinguished, it must be inhibited. Extinction involves inhibiting the expression of the conditioned response so that it can be replaced with an unlinked response. For example, if a dog has been conditioned to pull its leash when it sees its owner, then pulling the leash will result in an immediate punishment—being pulled farther away from home. Over time, if this behavior is ignored long enough, it will stop triggering the conditioning mechanism that causes it to happen automatically.
However, if during a period of neglect or training error the dog's owner fails to inhibit the conditioned response by not giving him or her the opportunity to use it, then it will be as if nothing had happened and the dog will have experienced a "spontaneous recovery". The connection between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus has been reinstated, so the dog will now pull the leash again whenever it sees its owner.
Spontaneous recovery can be observed in both humans and animals when an animal stops responding to a stimulus that previously activated the response. If the animal is then exposed to the stimulus again, it will show a renewed interest in reacting to it.
Spontaneous recovery is important because it shows that your dog's brain is still learning even after many years have passed. Every time your dog fails to react to a stimulus that once activated his reaction pattern, he is building up experience which will help him respond correctly the next time. This means that even if your dog was trained in the past, he can still learn new things today!
Spontaneous recovery occurs because part of your dog's brain that controls certain reflexes is still working even after you think he has forgotten how to do something. For example, if you stopped training your dog to roll over for a few days but then backtracked and gave him another roll over lesson, he would still remember how to do this task because part of his brain that controls these reflexes is still active.
Spontaneous recovery does not mean that your dog is just going to start performing any old trick now.
The findings support the hypothesis that spontaneous recovery occurs as a result of the quicker fading of second-learned connections. The reemergence of conditioned responses to an extinguished conditioned stimulus (CS) after the passage of time since its extinction is commonly termed as spontaneous recovery. In this study, rats were trained in a single session to press a lever to receive water reward. Then, they were randomly assigned to one of two groups: control or experimental. The experiment was conducted without interruption for three weeks during which time both groups received 20 trials per day. At the end of the third week, all rats were given another single test session during which time some animals from each group were killed immediately after testing and their brain tissue used for biochemical analysis, while the rest were left undisturbed for four days before being killed.
Rats in the experimental group had the lever they had been trained to press attached to a cord leading to an electrical stimulator. On Day 1 of testing, the stimulator was activated for five seconds every hour starting at 0900 hours and continuing until 2000 hours. This procedure was repeated on Days 2 through 4 with an interval of eight hours between sessions. Rats in the control group did not have any attached to them during this period. It was found that rats in the experimental group showed significantly less conditioned response (lever pressing) during stimulation sessions compared to those in the control group, indicating that they had learned to inhibit responding.
Spontaneous recovery is associated with the classical conditioning learning process, in which an organism learns to associate a neutral stimulus with a stimulus that produces an unconditioned response, so that the previously neutral stimulus comes to produce its own response, which is usually similar to the one shown...
Spontaneous recovery occurs when an organism has been conditioned to produce a certain response to one stimulus, but then before any further training takes place it gives another, unrelated stimulus a chance to cause that same response. The organism's body is therefore producing a response it has learned through experience is associated with the first stimulus, even though it is not being told to do so by any additional signals from the trainer.
This form of learning was first described by Gustav Fechner in 1872, who called it "automatic reaction". He observed that if you pinch your finger quickly and repeatedly on one hand, then later try to pin it against your will with the other hand, you'll find it difficult to do so. This is because the brain has started to connect the image of hurtling fingers with the feeling of pain, so that when it sees or thinks about fingers being pressed into flesh it automatically reacts by sending out pain signals.
Fechner used this example to explain how our bodies can react without us knowing about it. It is automatic reactions like these that allow us to know what causes us pain and what doesn't.