Home : Behavioral Tasks : Tasks : Eyeblink Conditioning
Description: Eyeblink Conditioning is a simple associative task in which a conditioned stimulus (CS), either a light or a tone, is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (US) usually a peri-orbital shock, which elicits a reflexive eyeblink. Initially, the CS fails to elicit eyeblink responses reliably, however, after several pairings of the CS (light or tone) with the peri-orbital shock, the CS alone comes to elicit eyeblink responses reliably. There are two common variants of this procedure, trace and delay conditioning. In delay conditioning the CS is immediately followed by the US and the two stimuli co-terminiate. In trace conditioning there is a distinct time gap between the CS and the US such that there is no overlap between the presentation of the two stimuli.
Purpose: Eyeblink conditioning has become a model system for studying the behavioral and neural properties of associative learning and memory since the neural circuits involved have been completely mapped out. Simple associative learning, such as in delay conditioning, is mediated be well-characterized brainstem-cerebellar circuitry. More complex higher order conditioning, such as in trace conditioning, is dependent upon interactions of this circuitry with forebrain structures such as the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex. The extensive knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms of eyeblink conditioning makes this model system ideal for assessing brain function in learning and memory.
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