Skip Navigation

Home : Behavioral Tasks : Tasks : Fear Conditioning


Fear Conditioning

Description: Fear conditioning is a type of Pavlovian learning task in which mice are presented with a neutral conditioning stimulus (CS) that is paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US). The mice learn that the CS predicts the US and will exhibit specific behavioral responses such as freezing when the CS is presented alone. Additionally subjects also learn to associate the environment in which the CS-US pairings take place with the US, and will exhibit specific behavioral responses when in the environment in the absence of the CS. There are two commonly used variants of this procedure, trace and delay conditioning. In delay conditioning the CS is immediately followed by the US and the two stimuli co-terminate. 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. In addition, conditioning to both discrete (e.g. tone) and multimodal (e.g. context) sensory information can be examined.

Purpose: Fear conditioning is a simple and quick way to examine associative learning that is long lasting. This task can be designed to assess many types of conditioning sensitive to either the hippocampal system, the amygdalar system, or both. Contextual conditioning (hippocampal-dependent) tests the ability of the mice to associate the training environment with the aversive event. In this setting the mice learn to associate several features about the environment with the US. In some cases a single or discrete CS, such as a tone, may also be associated with the US. This type of conditioning is dependent upon the amygdala.

View and Download Detailed Protocol(s):
Delay Fear Conditioning
Trace Fear Conditioning

Copyright © 2011 The Johns Hopkins University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences