Impact of Continuous Versus Intermittent CS-UCS Pairing on Human Brain Activation During Pavlovian Fear Conditioning

Academic Article


  • During Pavlovian fear conditioning a conditioned stimulus (CS) is repeatedly paired with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (UCS). In many studies the CS and UCS are paired on every trial, whereas in others the CS and UCS are paired intermittently. To better understand the influence of the CS-UCS pairing rate on brain activity, the experimenters presented continuously, intermittently, and non-paired CSs during fear conditioning. Amygdala, anterior cingulate, and fusiform gyrus activity increased linearly with the CS-UCS pairing rate. In contrast, insula and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex responses were larger during intermittently paired CS presentations relative to continuously and non-paired CSs. These results demonstrate two distinct patterns of activity in disparate brain regions. Amygdala, anterior cingulate, and fusiform gyrus activity paralleled the CS-UCS pairing rate, whereas the insula and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex appeared to respond to the uncertainty inherent in intermittent CS-UCS pairing procedures. These findings may further clarify the role of these brain regions in Pavlovian fear conditioning. © 2007 American Psychological Association.
  • Authors

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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Dunsmoor JE; Bandettini PA; Knight DC
  • Start Page

  • 635
  • End Page

  • 642
  • Volume

  • 121
  • Issue

  • 4