SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Classical conditioning

476

Dogs are hypersocial with humans, and their integration into human social ecology makes dogs a unique model for studying cross-species social bonding. However, the proximal neural mechanisms driving dog-human social interaction are unknown. We used fMRI in 15 awake dogs to probe the neural basis for their preferences for social interaction and food reward. In a first experiment, we used the ventral caudate as a measure of intrinsic reward value and compared activation to conditioned stimuli that predicted food, praise, or nothing. Relative to the control stimulus, the caudate was significantly more active to the reward-predicting stimuli and showed roughly equal or greater activation to praise versus food in 13 of 15 dogs. To confirm that these differences were driven by the intrinsic value of social praise, we performed a second imaging experiment in which the praise was withheld on a subset of trials. The difference in caudate activation to the receipt of praise, relative to its withholding, was strongly correlated with the differential activation to the conditioned stimuli in the first experiment. In a third experiment, we performed an out-of-scanner choice task in which the dog repeatedly selected food or owner in a Y-maze. The relative caudate activation to food- and praise-predicting stimuli in Experiment 1 was a strong predictor of each dog’s sequence of choices in the Y-maze. Analogous to similar neuroimaging studies of individual differences in human social reward, our findings demonstrate a neural mechanism for preference in domestic dogs that is stable within, but variable between, individuals. Moreover, the individual differences in the caudate responses indicate the potentially higher value of social than food reward for some dogs and may help to explain the apparent efficacy of social interaction in dog training.

Concepts: Predation, Sociology, Motivation, Classical conditioning, Choice, Dog, Dog health, Microeconomics

88

Synthetic experimental substrates are indispensable tools which can allow researchers to model biological processes non-invasively in three-dimensional space. In this study, we investigated the capacities of an electroconductive material whose properties converge upon those of the brain. An electrically conductive material composed of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, ions, water, and trace amounts of other organic compounds and minerals was classically conditioned as inferred by electrophysiological measurements. Spectral densities evoked during the display of a conditioned stimulus (CS) probe were strongly congruent with those displayed during the conditioned-unconditioned stimulus pairing (CS-UCS). The neutral stimulus consisted of the pulsed light from a LED. The unconditioned stimulus was an alternating current. Interstimulus intervals >130 ms did not result in conditioned responses. Microscopic analysis of the chemically-fixed substratum revealed 10-200 μm wide ‘vessel structures’ within samples exposed to a stimulus. Greater complexity (increased fractal dimensions) was clearly discernable by light microscopy for stained sections of fixed samples that had been conditioned compared to various controls. The denser pixels indicated greater concentration of stain and increased canalization. Implications for learning and memory formation are discussed.

Concepts: Electricity, Classical conditioning, Fear conditioning, Ivan Pavlov, Eyeblink conditioning, Interstimulus interval

61

The brain mechanisms of fear have been studied extensively using Pavlovian fear conditioning, a procedure that allows exploration of how the brain learns about and later detects and responds to threats. However, mechanisms that detect and respond to threats are not the same as those that give rise to conscious fear. This is an important distinction because symptoms based on conscious and nonconscious processes may be vulnerable to different predisposing factors and may also be treatable with different approaches in people who suffer from uncontrolled fear or anxiety. A conception of so-called fear conditioning in terms of circuits that operate nonconsciously, but that indirectly contribute to conscious fear, is proposed as way forward.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Cerebral cortex, Mind, Classical conditioning, Fear conditioning, Fear, Debut albums

43

The valence of memories is malleable because of their intrinsic reconstructive property. This property of memory has been used clinically to treat maladaptive behaviours. However, the neuronal mechanisms and brain circuits that enable the switching of the valence of memories remain largely unknown. Here we investigated these mechanisms by applying the recently developed memory engram cell- manipulation technique. We labelled with channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) a population of cells in either the dorsal dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus or the basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) that were specifically activated during contextual fear or reward conditioning. Both groups of fear-conditioned mice displayed aversive light-dependent responses in an optogenetic place avoidance test, whereas both DG- and BLA-labelled mice that underwent reward conditioning exhibited an appetitive response in an optogenetic place preference test. Next, in an attempt to reverse the valence of memory within a subject, mice whose DG or BLA engram had initially been labelled by contextual fear or reward conditioning were subjected to a second conditioning of the opposite valence while their original DG or BLA engram was reactivated by blue light. Subsequent optogenetic place avoidance and preference tests revealed that although the DG-engram group displayed a response indicating a switch of the memory valence, the BLA-engram group did not. This switch was also evident at the cellular level by a change in functional connectivity between DG engram-bearing cells and BLA engram-bearing cells. Thus, we found that in the DG, the neurons carrying the memory engram of a given neutral context have plasticity such that the valence of a conditioned response evoked by their reactivation can be reversed by re-associating this contextual memory engram with a new unconditioned stimulus of an opposite valence. Our present work provides new insight into the functional neural circuits underlying the malleability of emotional memory.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Memory, Hippocampus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Classical conditioning, Fear conditioning

41

A central tenet of Rescorla and Wagner’s model of associative learning is that the reinforcement value of a paired trial diminishes as the associative strength between the presented stimuli increases. Despite its fundamental importance to behavioral sciences, the neural mechanisms underlying the model have not been fully explored. Here, we present findings that, taken together, can explain why a stronger association leads to a reduced reinforcement value, within the context of eyeblink conditioning. Specifically, we show that learned pause responses in Purkinje cells, which trigger adaptively timed conditioned eyeblinks, suppress the unconditional stimulus (US) signal in a graded manner. Furthermore, by examining how Purkinje cells respond to two distinct conditional stimuli and to a compound stimulus, we provide evidence that could potentially help explain the somewhat counterintuitive overexpectation phenomenon, which was derived from the Rescorla-Wagner model.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuron, Cerebellum, Classical conditioning, Purkinje cell, Eyeblink conditioning, Behavioral concepts, Rescorla-Wagner model

41

Research supports an association between extraversion and dopamine (DA) functioning. DA facilitates incentive motivation and the conditioning and incentive encoding of contexts that predict reward. Therefore, we assessed whether extraversion is related to the efficacy of acquiring conditioned contextual facilitation of three processes that are dependent on DA: motor velocity, positive affect, and visuospatial working memory. We exposed high and low extraverts to three days of association of drug reward (methylphenidate, MP) with a particular laboratory context (Paired group), a test day of conditioning, and three days of extinction in the same laboratory. A Placebo group and an Unpaired group (that had MP in a different laboratory context) served as controls. Conditioned contextual facilitation was assessed by (i) presenting video clips that varied in their pairing with drug and laboratory context and in inherent incentive value, and (ii) measuring increases from day 1 to Test day on the three processes above. Results showed acquisition of conditioned contextual facilitation across all measures to video clips that had been paired with drug and laboratory context in the Paired high extraverts, but no conditioning in the Paired low extraverts (nor in either of the control groups). Increases in the Paired high extraverts were correlated across the three measures. Also, conditioned facilitation was evident on the first day of extinction in Paired high extraverts, despite the absence of the unconditioned effects of MP. By the last day of extinction, responding returned to day 1 levels. The findings suggest that extraversion is associated with variation in the acquisition of contexts that predict reward. Over time, this variation may lead to differences in the breadth of networks of conditioned contexts. Thus, individual differences in extraversion may be maintained by activation of differentially encoded central representations of incentive contexts that predict reward.

Concepts: Motivation, Dopamine, Classical conditioning, Amphetamine, Reward system, Contextual, Encoding, ConTeXt

37

Pain reduction and enhancement can be produced by means of conditioning procedures, yet the role of awareness during the acquisition stage of classical conditioning is unknown. We used psychophysical measures to establish whether conditioned analgesic and hyperalgesic responses could be acquired by unseen (subliminally presented) stimuli. A 2 × 2 factorial design, including subliminal/supraliminal exposures of conditioning stimuli (CS) during acquisition/extinction, was used. Results showed significant analgesic and hyperalgesic responses (P < 0.001), and responses were independent of CS awareness, as subliminal/supraliminal cues during acquisition/extinction led to comparable outcomes. The effect was significantly larger for hyperalgesic than analgesic responses (P < 0.001). Results demonstrate that conscious awareness of the CS is not required during either acquisition or extinction of conditioned analgesia or hyperalgesia. Our results support the notion that nonconscious stimuli have a pervasive effect on human brain function and behavior and may affect learning of complex cognitive processes such as psychologically mediated analgesic and hyperalgesic responses.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Cognitive science, Pain, Mind, Behaviorism, Classical conditioning

36

The dominant theories of human placebo effects rely on a notion that consciously perceptible cues, such as verbal information or distinct stimuli in classical conditioning, provide signals that activate placebo effects. However, growing evidence suggest that behavior can be triggered by stimuli presented outside of conscious awareness. Here, we performed two experiments in which the responses to thermal pain stimuli were assessed. The first experiment assessed whether a conditioning paradigm, using clearly visible cues for high and low pain, could induce placebo and nocebo responses. The second experiment, in a separate group of subjects, assessed whether conditioned placebo and nocebo responses could be triggered in response to nonconscious (masked) exposures to the same cues. A total of 40 healthy volunteers (24 female, mean age 23 y) were investigated in a laboratory setting. Participants rated each pain stimulus on a numeric response scale, ranging from 0 = no pain to 100 = worst imaginable pain. Significant placebo and nocebo effects were found in both experiment 1 (using clearly visible stimuli) and experiment 2 (using nonconscious stimuli), indicating that the mechanisms responsible for placebo and nocebo effects can operate without conscious awareness of the triggering cues. This is a unique experimental verification of the influence of nonconscious conditioned stimuli on placebo/nocebo effects and the results challenge the exclusive role of awareness and conscious cognitions in placebo responses.

Concepts: Causality, Consciousness, Experiment, Placebo, Theory, Behaviorism, Awareness, Classical conditioning

34

Long-term potentiation (LTP), a well-characterized form of synaptic plasticity, has long been postulated as a cellular correlate of learning and memory. Although LTP can persist for long periods of time, the mechanisms underlying LTP maintenance, in the midst of ongoing protein turnover and synaptic activity, remain elusive. Sustained activation of the brain-specific protein kinase C (PKC) isoform protein kinase M-ζ (PKM-ζ) has been reported to be necessary for both LTP maintenance and long-term memory. Inhibiting PKM-ζ activity using a synthetic zeta inhibitory peptide (ZIP) based on the PKC-ζ pseudosubstrate sequence reverses established LTP in vitro and in vivo. More notably, infusion of ZIP eliminates memories for a growing list of experience-dependent behaviours, including active place avoidance, conditioned taste aversion, fear conditioning and spatial learning. However, most of the evidence supporting a role for PKM-ζ in LTP and memory relies heavily on pharmacological inhibition of PKM-ζ by ZIP. To further investigate the involvement of PKM-ζ in the maintenance of LTP and memory, we generated transgenic mice lacking PKC-ζ and PKM-ζ. We find that both conventional and conditional PKC-ζ/PKM-ζ knockout mice show normal synaptic transmission and LTP at Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses, and have no deficits in several hippocampal-dependent learning and memory tasks. Notably, ZIP still reverses LTP in PKC-ζ/PKM-ζ knockout mice, indicating that the effects of ZIP are independent of PKM-ζ.

Concepts: Amygdala, Signal transduction, Protein kinase, Synaptic plasticity, Memory, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation, Classical conditioning

34

Memories become labile when recalled. In humans and rodents alike, reactivated fear memories can be attenuated by disrupting reconsolidation with extinction training. Using functional brain imaging, we found that, after a conditioned fear memory was formed, reactivation and reconsolidation left a memory trace in the basolateral amygdala that predicted subsequent fear expression and was tightly coupled to activity in the fear circuit of the brain. In contrast, reactivation followed by disrupted reconsolidation suppressed fear, abolished the memory trace, and attenuated fear-circuit connectivity. Thus, as previously demonstrated in rodents, fear memory suppression resulting from behavioral disruption of reconsolidation is amygdala-dependent also in humans, which supports an evolutionarily conserved memory-update mechanism.

Concepts: Psychology, Amygdala, Brain, Evolution, Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, Classical conditioning