Nictating membrane conditioning to tone in the immobilized albino rabbit

John F. Disterhoft*, Helen H. Kwan, Warren D. Lo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Acquisition of nicititating membrane (NM) conditioned responses (CRs) to tone onset was studied in male albino rabbits with their heads immobilized and bodies loosely restrained. The conditioned stimulus (CS) was a 1000 Hz tone presented over a white noise background. The unconditioned stimulus (US) was an air puff directed at the exposed cornea. NM closure was detected with an integrated circuit infrared light reflection transducer. The latency of the unconditioned response (UR) was 17.5 msec from puff onset at the cornea. URs were bilateral. All 22 experimental rabbits showed CR acquisition in the eye to which puff was delivered on training Day I. Group response rates approached 80% in the last 40 trials of Day I. During Days II and III, the rate was between 90 and 100%. Mean CR response latency decreased significantly from 177 msec on Day I to 135 msec on Day II. None of the 9 pseudoconditioning control animals showed CR acquisition. A learning curve was constructed with the trial of the tenth CR (rather than trial 0) as the anchor point. The probability of CR occurrence showed an abrupt 50% increase between trials-12 and -11 (before the anchor point) when examined in this fashion. NM performance of the non-puff eye (eye not receiving the air puff US) was determined in 13 rabbits. CRs were determined to be largely unilateral. When non-puff CRs were present, they were of significantly longer latency and of smaller size than those occuring simultaneously in the puff eye. The advantages of rabbit NM conditioning as a system in which to examine the neurophysiological and anatomical substrates of learning were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-143
Number of pages17
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 25 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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