Interpreting patterns of brain activation in human fear conditioning with an attentional-associative learning model

Behav Neurosci. 2009 Aug;123(4):851-5. doi: 10.1037/a0016334.


J. E. Dunsmoor, P. A. Bandettini, and D. C. Knight conducted a neuroimaging study of human fear conditioning and analyzed brain activity under various pairing rates between a conditioned and an unconditioned stimulus. Computer simulations with an attentional-associative model introduced by N. A. Schmajuk, Y. W. Lam, and J. A. Gray (1996) show that activity in the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex is well described by a variable representing the prediction of the unconditioned stimulus, whereas activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and insula is well captured by a variable coding the attentional-modulated representation of conditioned stimuli. In addition, the model explains how those variables control behavior and provides a clear framework in which those variables play important roles in the description of numerous classical conditioning paradigms. Also, the model offers a number of predictions related to stimulus novelty for future neuroimaging studies of associative learning.

MeSH terms

  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Fear* / physiology
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Probability
  • Reinforcement, Psychology