Chapter 3.1 Brain mechanisms of Pavlovian and instrumental aversive conditioning

Christopher K. Cain, Joseph E. LeDoux

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Fear learning can be broadly divided into two categories: the acquisition of fear reactions, modeled by Pavlovian conditioning, and the acquisition of fear actions, modeled by instrumental avoidance/escape conditioning. Brain research on Pavlovian conditioning has been especially successful at delineating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of fear-reaction learning. Instrumental conditioning research is beginning to shed light on fear-action learning at the brain systems level. In the present chapter we review recent advances in both fields and suggest that the Escape from Fear (EFF) paradigm is an excellent model for studying how these two types of learning interact to subserve fear behavior. The mechanisms of such learning may be related to passive versus active coping strategies in humans suffering from pathological fear and understanding these mechanisms may have important treatment implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Anxiety and Fear
EditorsRobert Blanchard, Caroline Blanchard, Guy Griebel, David Nutt
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2008

Publication series

NameHandbook of Behavioral Neuroscience
ISSN (Print)1569-7339


  • Pavlovian
  • amygdala
  • avoidance
  • conditioning
  • coping
  • instrumental

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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