Classical conditioning of the eyeblink response in the delay paradigm in adults aged 18-83 years

Psychol Aging. 1988 Sep;3(3):219-29. doi: 10.1037//0882-7974.3.3.219.


To determine if age differences in classical conditioning of the eyelid response begin to appear in middle age in humans as they do in animals, adult subjects aged 18-83 years were trained in the delay conditioning paradigm. Large age effects occurred. Statistically significant differences first appeared in the decade of the 40s. Within-age-group variability was large. To reduce variability, subjects were classified by the magnitude of their unconditioned response (UR). Regardless of age, subjects with low amplitude URs conditioned poorly. In the normal UR amplitude group, the correlation between age and total percentage conditioned responses (CRs) was -.58. Eyeblink rate and voluntary responding did not account for age differences in conditioning, and it was unlikely that hearing acuity or corneal sensitivity caused the differences. Parallels between human and animal eyelid conditioning are considered, and it is suggested that age changes in the cerebellum may affect conditioning in aging mammals, including humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Association Learning*
  • Conditioning, Eyelid*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reaction Time
  • Reference Values