Lesions of the Middle Cerebellar Peduncle Disrupt Acquisition and Retention of the Rabbit's Classically Conditioned Nictitating Membrane Response

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Rabbits were classically conditioned to emit a nictitating membrane response (NMR) to either a light or tone conditioned stimulus (CS) paired with an eye shock unconditioned stimulus (UCS). They then received lesions of the middle cerebellar peduncle (MCP) or served as unoperated controls. Following surgery, they were given separate presentations of tone, light, and vibratory CSs, each paired with the eye shock UCS. In this way, conditioned responses (CR) to the previously trained light or tone served as a test of retention, whereas CRs to the remaining two conditioned stimuli (tone and vibratory or light and vibratory) served as a test of acquisition. The results of the study revealed that rabbits with complete lesions of the MCP showed disrupted acquisition and retention of the conditioned NMR to all stimuli, rabbits with partial MCP lesions also showed disrupted acquisition and retention to all CSs, but to a lesser degree, and animals with lesions that missed the MCP and unoperated controls both showed normal acquisition and retention of the conditioned NMR. These data are consistent with the view that the cerebellum is an essential part of the circuit for classical conditioning of the NM response and that information about CSs in the auditory, visual, and tactile modalities reach the cerebellum by way of the MCP.

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