Learning and Memory: The Behavioral and Biological Substrates

By Isidore Gormezano; Edward A. Wasserman | Go to book overview

14
Central Pathways Involved
in Classical Differential
Conditioning of Heart Rate
Responses in Rabbits
Philip M. McCabe Alan H. Teich
Neil Schneiderman Ray W. Winters
Theodore W. Jarrell David R. Liskowsky
Christopher G. Gentile University of Miami

In recent years, a major focus of research in the area of learning and memory has been to describe the neuronal pathways involved in the integration and expression of simple learned responses. In this type of work, it is necessary to develop a paradigm that allows the investigator to have precise control over the stimuli, and that elicits a simple and clear form of associative learning ( Thompson et al., 1984). Furthermore, the model system used should allow neuronal analyses ( Cohen, 1974) and the neuronal activity should be related to a significant behavior ( Kandel & Spencer, 1968). Thompson and colleagues ( Thompson et al., 1984) have pointed out that, once a suitable preparation has been established, the first issue that must be addressed is to identify the neural structures and pathways involved in the model of learning. Using lesion, electrophysiological, and neuroanatomical techniques, it is possible to trace CNS circuitry that links sensory information, in the form of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli (CSs & USs), with motor outflow, in the form of conditioned and unconditioned responses (CRs & URs). Certainly, the CNS circuitry involved in any learned behavior is quite complex; however, through careful and systematic studies the essential neuronal pathways for a relatively simple CR may be elucidated. Once the neuronal circuitry has been identified, electrophysiological and biochemical analyses of cellular activity in the various pathways can provide further information regarding the neural substrates of learning.

The model system that we have chosen to work with is the classically conditioned heart rate (HR) response in rabbits. HR conditioning is a relatively simple model of learning that develops within a few CS-US pairings. This response is not only interesting in terms of understanding mechanisms of learning, but also it is relevant to the way in which cardiovascular responses are produced to stressful

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