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Potentiation rather than distraction in a trace fear conditioning procedure

Pezze, M.A., Marshall, H.J., Cassaday, H.J.
Behavioural processes 2016 v.128 pp. 41-46
animal behavior, fearfulness, learning, models, rats
Trace conditioning procedures are defined by the introduction of a trace interval between conditioned stimulus (CS, e.g. noise or light) offset and unconditioned stimulus (US, e.g. footshock). The introduction of an additional stimulus as a distractor has been suggested to increase the attentional demands of the task and to extend the usefulness of the behavioural model. In Experiment 1, the CS was noise and the distractor was provided by an intermittent light. In Experiment 2, the CS was light and the distractor was provided by an intermittent noise. In both experiments, the introduction of a 10s trace interval weakened associative learning compared with that seen in a 0s delay conditioned group. However, there was no consistent evidence of distraction. On the contrary, in Experiment 1, associative learning was stronger (in both trace and delay conditioned groups) for rats conditioned also in the presence of the intermittent light. In Experiment 2, there was no such effect when the roles of the stimuli were reversed. The results of Experiment 2 did however confirm the particular salience of the noise stimulus. The finding of increased associative learning dependent on salience is consistent with arousal-mediated effects on associative learning.