Application of Pavlovian higher-order conditioning to the analysis of the neural substrates of fear conditioning

Jonathan C. Gewirtz, Michael Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-459
Number of pages7
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - Apr 5 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIMH Grants MH-47840 and MH-11370, Research Scientist Development Award MH-00004, and AFOSR Grant F49620.


  • Amygdala
  • Cortex
  • Fear
  • Startle


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