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Explicit and implicit processes in human aversive conditioning

Citation

Carter, Ronald McKell (2006) Explicit and implicit processes in human aversive conditioning. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechETD:etd-06022006-124040

Abstract

The ability to adapt to a changing environment is central to an organism’s success. The process of associating two stimuli (as in associative conditioning) requires very little in the way of neural machinery. In fact, organisms with only a few hundred neurons show conditioning that is specific to an associated cue. This type of learning is commonly referred to as implicit learning. The learning can be performed in the absence of the subject’s ability to describe it. One example of learning that is thought to be implicit is delay conditioning. Delay conditioning consists of a single cue (a tone, for example) that starts before, and then overlaps with, an outcome (like a pain stimulus). In addition to associating sensory cues, humans routinely link abstract concepts with an outcome. This more complex learning is often described as explicit since subjects are able to describe the link between the stimulus and outcome. An example of conditioning that requires this type of knowledge is trace conditioning. Trace conditioning includes a separation of a few seconds between the cue and outcome. Explicit learning is often proposed to involve a separate system, but the degree of separation between implicit associations and explicit learning is still debated. We describe aversive conditioning experiments in human subjects used to study the degree of interaction that takes place between explicit and implicit systems. We do this in three ways. First, if a higher order task (in this case a working memory task) is performed during conditioning, it reduces not only explicit learning but also implicit learning. Second, we describe the area of the brain involved in explicit learning during conditioning and confirm that it is active during both trace and delay conditioning. Third, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we describe hemodynamic activity changes in perceptual areas of the brain that occur during delay conditioning and persist after the learned association has faded. From these studies, we conclude that there is a strong interaction between explicit and implicit learning systems, with one often directly changing the function of the other.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:association; Conscious; declarative; extinction; learning; Non-conscious; pavlovian; perceptual learning; working memory
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Biology
Major Option:Biology
Thesis Availability:Mixed availability, specified at file level
Research Advisor(s):
  • Koch, Christof
Thesis Committee:
  • Koch, Christof (chair)
  • Allman, John Morgan
  • O'Doherty, John P.
  • Adolphs, Ralph
  • Shimojo, Shinsuke
Defense Date:24 May 2006
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-06022006-124040
Persistent URL:http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechETD:etd-06022006-124040
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2401
Collection:CaltechTHESIS
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:02 Jun 2006
Last Modified:26 Dec 2012 02:50

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