The classical conditioning paradigm

Classical conditioning is a simple form of associative learning but provides the high degree of control over the learning situation necessary to establish its neural correlates. A conditioned stimulus (CS) is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS), and comes to elicit the response originally elicited by the UCS. The critical changes in behavioral response to the CS and UCS are exactly matched by changes in hippocampal and cerebellar activity.

The instrumental conditioning paradigm

The instrumental conditioning paradigm affords the opportunity to examine the learning of voluntary behaviors. Reinforcement and punishment are strong determinants of whether or not behavior will be modified as a result of learning.

Learning about reward and punishment

Animals and people will respond at very high rates in order to stimulate certain areas of the brain such as the median forebrain bundle and the periventricular tract. Dopaminergic systems in these areas are the basis of reinforcement, crucial to learning based on punishment and reward.

Working memory and reference memory

Working memory is memory needed only in the here and now, whereas reference memory is needed time and again. Conflicting research in the 1980s on the role of the hippocampus in working and reference memory was resolved by showing that the hippocampus is necessary for remembering spatial information.

Related topics

The nature of learning and memory (P1)

Brain structures involved in memory (P3)