Evidence of Pavlovian conditioned fear following electrical stimulation of the periaqueductal grey in the rat

G. Di Scala, Michael J. Mana, W. J. Jacobs, A. G. Phillips

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61 Scopus citations


Stimulation of the periaqueductal grey (PAG) has been used to support aversive conditioning in a variety of species with several experimental paradigms. However, it has not been clearly demonstrated whether the behavioral changes produced by PAG stimulation in these paradigms are mediated by associative or nonassociative mechanisms. The present studies demonstrate that electrical stimulation of the PAG in the rat may be used to support associative learning in a Pavlovian paradigm. In each experiment, a fully controlled conditional emotional response (CER) procedure was used to examine the unconditional aversive properties of PAG stimulation. In Experiment la, weak associative conditioning was observed when a light CS was paired with PAG stimulation over 6 conditioning trials. In Experiment 1b, robust associative conditioning was obtained with a light CS when 18 conditioning trials were used. In Experiment 2, robust associative conditioning was demonstrated with a tone CS when 6 conditioning trials were used. The results parallel those found when other aversive stimuli are used as a UCS (e.g., footshock or intraorbital air puff), and because the present experiments included the proper control procedures the results clearly indicate that the behavioral changes produced by PAG stimulation are mediated by associative Pavlovian learning mechanisms rather than nonassociative mechanisms such as sensitization or pseudoconditioning. The present technique may be useful for assessing the neuroanatomical and neurochemical substrates underlying the aversive effects of brain-stimulation, and for screening the effects of drugs on the conditional and unconditional responses produced by such stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987


  • CER
  • Electrical brain-stimulation
  • Fear
  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • Periaqueductal grey
  • Rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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