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Measuring Pavlovian appetitive conditioning in humans with the startle eyeblink and postauricular reflexes

ContributorsCoraj, Seline
Master program titleInterdisciplinary Master in Neuroscience
Defense date2017

Emotional learning is an essential adaptive function that mainly occurs through aversive and appetitive conditioning. Despite a comparable evolutionary and clinical significance, appetitive conditioning has rarely been studied in humans, in contrast to aversive conditioning. This divergence might be explained by the difficulty in finding effective appetitive stimuli that elicit strong physiological reactions, and/or by a potential lack of sensitivity of the psychophysiological measures typically used to detect appetitive conditioning. However, promising findings suggest that the postauricular reflex (PAR) and the startle eyeblink reflex may be sensitive to appetitive stimuli. The present study therefore aimed to determine whether these two reflexes represent suitable psychophysiological indicators of human appetitive conditioning. To this end, we adopted a differential appetitive conditioning procedure, in which one neutral figure (CS+) was contingently paired with a pleasant odor (US), whereas another neutral figure (CS-) was never paired with any odor. Taken together, our results revealed that the PAR was specifically potentiated in response to the CS+ only during acquisition, demonstrating its sensitivity to the appetitive contingencies. Likewise, CS-US contingency and CS liking ratings reflected successful appetitive conditioning. In contrast, we found no startle eyeblink reflex modulation in response to the CS+, and no effect of appetitive conditioning on SCR. Our findings hence indicate that the postauricular reflex is a sensitive measure of human appetitive conditioning, therefore representing a valuable tool for further investigating the basic mechanisms underlying emotional learning in humans, as well as their dysfunctions in related disorders.

  • Conditionnement
  • Émotion
  • Odeur
  • Psychophysiologie
  • Récompense
Citation (ISO format)
CORAJ, Seline. Measuring Pavlovian appetitive conditioning in humans with the startle eyeblink and postauricular reflexes. 2017.
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Master thesis
  • PID : unige:103189

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Creation03/12/2018 3:15:00 PM
First validation03/12/2018 3:15:00 PM
Update time03/15/2023 8:01:02 AM
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