Several recent studies have shown that reducing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-mediated neurotransmission retards extinction of aversive conditioning. However, relatively little is known about the effect of GABA on extinction of appetitively motivated tasks. We examined the effect of chlordiazepoxide (CDP), a classical benzodiazepine (BZ) and two novel subtype-selective BZs when administered to male C57B1/6 mice during extinction following training on a discrete-trial fixed-ratio 5 (FR5) food reinforced lever-press procedure. Initially CDP had no effect, but after several extinction sessions CDP significantly facilitated extinction, i.e. slowed responding, compared with vehicle-treated mice. This effect was not due to drug accumulation because mice switched from vehicle treatment to CDP late in extinction showed facilitation immediately. Likewise, this effect could not be attributed to sedation because the dose of CDP used (15 mg/kg i.p.) did not suppress locomotor activity. The two novel subtype-selective BZ partial agonists, L838,417 and TP13, selectively facilitated extinction in similar fashion to CDP. The non-GABAergic anxiolytic buspirone was also tested and found to have similar effects when administered at a non-sedating dose. These studies demonstrate that GABA-mediated processes are important during extinction of an appetitively motivated task, but only after the animals have experienced several extinction sessions. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.