Combined lesions of the medial dorsal and anterior thalamic nuclei severely impair the acquisition of discriminative avoidance behavior, wherein rabbits learn to prevent foot-shock by stepping after a tone conditional stimulus (CS+), and they learn to ignore a different tone (CS-) that does not signal foot-shock. Neurons in these thalamic nuclei exhibit training-induced firing pattern changes during behavioral acquisition to asymptotic performance levels. However, the changes decline in magnitude during the course of post-asymptotic training (overtraining), suggesting a declining participation of the thalamic neurons in task mediation. In order to test this hypothesis, electrolytic or sham limbic thalamic lesions were induced either immediately after asymptotic performance was reached, or after the administration of training to asymptote and ten additional overtraining sessions. Retention after the lesions was assessed using an extinction procedure (CS presentation without foot-shock) followed by re-acquisition. Rabbits given lesions after criterion attainment exhibited a significant retention deficit during both the extinction and re-acquisition tests. However, no significant retention deficit was found in rabbits given 10 days of overtraining prior to the lesions. These results support the prediction derived from the neuronal data, of a time-limited involvement of limbic thalamic neurons in mediation of discriminative avoidance behavior.