Learning the relationships between aversive events and the environmental stimuli that predict such events is essential to the survival of organisms throughout the animal kingdom. Pavlovian fear conditioning is an exemplar of this form of learning that is exhibited by both rats and humans. Recent years have seen an incredible surge in interest in the neurobiology of fear conditioning. Neural circuits underlying fear conditioning have been mapped, synaptic plasticity in these circuits has been identified, and biochemical and genetic manipulations are beginning to unravel the molecular machinery responsible for the storage of fear memories. These advances represent an important step in understanding the neural substrates of a rapidly acquired and adaptive form of associative learning and memory in mammals.