Hippocampal theta (3-8Hz) activity during classical eyeblink conditioning in rabbits

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 Jul;90(1):62-70. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2008.01.005. Epub 2008 Feb 21.


In 1978, Berry and Thompson showed that the amount of theta (3-8Hz) activity in the spontaneous hippocampal EEG predicted learning rate in subsequent eyeblink conditioning in rabbits. More recently, the absence of theta activity during the training trial has been shown to have a detrimental effect on learning rate. Here, we aimed to further explore the relationship between theta activity and classical eyeblink conditioning by determining how the relative power of hippocampal theta activity [theta/(theta+delta) ratio] changes during both unpaired control and paired training phases. We found that animals with a higher hippocampal theta ratio immediately before conditioning learned faster and also that in these animals the theta ratio was higher throughout both experimental phases. In fact, while the hippocampal theta ratio remained stable in the fast learners as a function of training, it decreased in the slow learners already during unpaired training. In addition, the presence of hippocampal theta activity enhanced the hippocampal model of the conditioned response (CR) and seemed to be beneficial for CR performance in terms of peak latency during conditioning, but did not have any effect when the animals showed asymptotic learning. Together with earlier findings, these results imply that the behavioral state in which hippocampal theta activity is absent is detrimental for learning, and that the behavioral state in which hippocampal theta activity dominates is beneficial for learning, at least before a well-learned state is achieved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Conditioning, Eyelid / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Theta Rhythm*
  • Time Factors