Blocking of Flavor-Nausea Learning by Non-Flavor Cues: Assessment Through Orofacial Reactivity Responses

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We investigated, using orofacial reactivity assessment, whether nonflavor context cues can elicit conditioned aversive reactions, and also whether context cues interfere, through blocking, with the reduction in taste palatability during taste aversion conditioning. Experiment 1 showed that a context previously paired with LiCl evoked aversive orofacial reactions, and also attenuated the reduction in palatability of a saccharin solution which was paired with LiCl in that context. In Experiment 2, this blocking effect was abolished when the rats were given nonreinforced exposure to the previously LiCl-paired context (context extinction) before aversive conditioning of the saccharin in compound with the context. These results confirm that context stimuli can elicit conditioned aversive reactions in the absence of any flavor component, and demonstrate that context cues can interfere with the affective aspects of taste aversion learning. Thus nonflavor cues appear to engage the same processes as taste cues in aversion learning. These results are consistent with the idea that taste aversion learning is governed by general associative mechanisms and the special properties of nausea, rather than by a selective mechanism for poison-avoidance.

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