In Pavlovian first-order conditioning, a conditioned response is acquired by pairing a neutral stimulus (S1) with a stimulus that has innate motivational value. In higher-order conditioning, a neutral stimulus (S2) is paired with S1 either after (second-order conditioning) or before (sensory preconditioning) first-order conditioning has been acquired. Thus, in higher-order conditioning the motivational value of the reinforcer is acquired rather than innate. This review describes some of the potential uses of higher-order conditioning in investigating the neural substrates of fearful memories. First, because in second-order fear conditioning S2 is not paired directly with a painful stimulus, any effect of a treatment on the acquisition of fear cannot be attributed to the treatment's possible effects on transmission of nociceptive information. Second, higher-order conditioning provides opportunities for analyzing where and how different types of events, or different aspects of the same events, are represented in the brain.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by NIMH Grants MH-47840 and MH-11370, Research Scientist Development Award MH-00004, and AFOSR Grant F49620.