Essay on Cue and Contextual Fear Conditioning

Essay on Cue and Contextual Fear Conditioning

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Fear conditioning is a commonly used behavioral paradigm to test an organism’s ability to create associations and learn to avoid aversive stimuli. There are two methodologies: cue and contextual fear conditioning (Kim & Jung, 2006). In cued fear conditioning, a neutral conditioned stimulus (CS) is paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US) which activates a strong unconditioned fear responses (UR). After a continued training period, the neutral CS is now able to activate a conditioned response (CR). Similarly, context conditioning occurs when the background or context cues, during the condition training, is able to predict the US and activate the fear response. For example, a mice can be placed in a novel environment and given an aversive stimulus (e.g. footshock). When the mice is returned to that same environment, it will display a CR (e.g. freezing). The mice’s ability for contextual fear conditioning is dependent on whether it was able to learn and associate its environment with the aversive stimulus. (Curzon, Rustay, and Browman, 2009)
One of the most famous example of fear conditioning is the Little Albert experiment conducted by Watson and Rayner in 1920. In this experiment, an infant, Albert, was presented with a white rat, and as expected, Albert initially displayed no signs of fear and began touching and playing with the rat. Soon, the experimenters began pairing the presentation of the rat with a loud noise (US) produced by banging a hammer on a steel bar. The noise caused Albert to startle and cry (UR). After several pairing, Albert learned to fear the rat (CS) and would crawl away or cry (CR) when the rat was subsequently presented (Watson and Rayner, 1920)
Fear conditioning occurs when an organism is able t...

... middle of paper ... long term potentiation have different roles in fear conditioning. Hippocampal LTP is responsible for assembling and consolidating context into the hippocampus. The context then becomes associated with the US in the amygdala. Finally, the amygdala plays an important role in constructing and storing CS-US association during fear conditioning (Maren, 2001). Studying these mechanism will prove to be valuable in understanding the synaptic plasticity in other learning and memory systems. It is also possible to use fear conditioning as a model for fear disturbances disorders. Researching fear conditioning at the intracellular level, such as the role of glutamate receptors, provides a foundation in understanding memory formation, as well as begin unraveling disorders that have fear as a component: anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Kim & Jung, 2006).

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