Potentiation of the acoustic startle response by a conditioned stimulus paired with acoustic startle stimulus in rats.J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 1990 Jul; 16(3):279-87.JE
The hypothesis that the standard acoustic startle habituation paradigm contains the elements of Pavlovian fear conditioning was tested. In a potentiated startle response paradigm, a startle stimulus and a light conditioned stimulus (CS) were paired. A startle stimulus then was tested alone or following the CS. Freezing behavior was measured to index conditioned fear. The startle response was potentiated on CS trials, and rats froze more in CS than in non-CS periods. In Experiment 1, response to a previously habituated, weak startle stimulus was potentiated. In Experiment 2, response to the same stimulus used as the unconditioned stimulus (US) in training was potentiated. This CS-potentiated response retarded the course of response decrements over training sessions as compared with an explictly unpaired control group. Conditioned fear is a standard feature of this habituation paradigm, serves to potentiate the startle response, and provides an associative dimension lacking in the habituation process per se.