Enhancement of Odor Sensitivity Following Repeated Odor and Visual Fear Conditioning


Odor detection sensitivity can be rapidly altered by fear conditioning; whether this effect is augmented over time is not known.The present study aimed to test whether repeated conditioning sessions induce changes in odor detection threshold as well as in conditioned responses and whether olfactory stimuli evoke stronger conditioned responses than visual stimuli. The repeated conditioning group participated in repeated sessions over 2 weeks whereas the single conditioning group participated in 1 conditioning session; both groups were presented with visual and olfactory stimuli, were paired with an electric shock (CS+) and 2 matched control stimuli not paired with shock (CS-) while olfactory detection threshold and skin conductance responses (SCRs) were measured before and after the last session. We found increased sensitivity for the CS+ odor in the repeated but not in the single conditioning group, consistent with changes in olfactory sensitivity following repeated aversive learning and of a similar magnitude to what has previously been demonstrated in the periphery. SCR to the visual and olfactory CS+ were similar between groups, indicating that sensory thresholds can change without corresponding change in conditioned responses. In conclusion, repeated conditioning increases detection sensitivity and reduces conditioned responses, suggesting that segregated processes influence perception and conditioned responses.

Chemical Senses, 40(7), 497–506
Valentina Parma
Valentina Parma
Research Assistant Professor in Psychology