Exploring prefrontal cortical memory mechanisms with eyeblink conditioning

Craig Weiss*, John F. Disterhoft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Several studies in nonhuman primates have shown that neurons in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex have activity that persists throughout the delay period in delayed matching to sample tasks, and age-related changes in the microcolumnar organization of the prefrontal cortex are significantly correlated with age-related declines in cognition. Activity that persists beyond the presentation of a stimulus could mediate working memory processes, and disruption of those processes could account for memory deficits that often accompany the aging process. These potential memory and aging mechanisms are being systematically examined with eyeblink conditioning paradigms in nonprimate mammalian animal models including the rabbit. The trace version of the conditioning paradigm is a particularly good system to explore declarative memory since humans do not acquire trace conditioning if they are unable to become cognitively aware of the association between a conditioning tone and an airpuff to the eye. This conditioning paradigm has been used to show that the hippocampus and cerebellum interact functionally since both conditioned responses and conditioned hippocampal pyramidal neuron activity are abolished following lesions of the cerebellar nuclei and since hippocampal lesions prevent or abolish trace conditioned blinks. However, because there are no direct connections between the hippocampal formation and the cerebellum, and because the hippocampus is not necessary for trace conditioning after a period of consolidation has elapsed, we and others have been examining the prefrontal cortex for its role in forebrain-dependent trace eyeblink conditioning. This review examines some of the literature which suggests that the prefrontal cortex serves to orchestrate a neuronal network that interacts with the cerebellum to mediate adaptively timed conditioned responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-326
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Caudate
  • Cerebellum
  • Hippocampus
  • Red nucleus
  • Trace conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring prefrontal cortical memory mechanisms with eyeblink conditioning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this