The role of working memory and declarative memory in trace conditioning

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Translational assays of cognition that are similarly implemented in both lower and higher-order species, such as rodents and primates, provide a means to reconcile preclinical modeling of psychiatric neuropathology and clinical research. To this end, Pavlovian conditioning has provided a useful tool for investigating cognitive processes in both lab animal models and humans. This review focuses on trace conditioning, a form of Pavlovian conditioning typified by the insertion of a temporal gap (i.e., trace interval) between presentations of a conditioned stimulus (CS) and an unconditioned stimulus (US). This review aims to discuss pre-clinical and clinical work investigating the mnemonic processes recruited for trace conditioning. Much work suggests that trace conditioning involves unique neurocognitive mechanisms to facilitate formation of trace memories in contrast to standard Pavlovian conditioning. For example, the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC) appear to play critical roles in trace conditioning. Moreover, cognitive mechanistic accounts in human studies suggest that working memory and declarative memory processes are engaged to facilitate formation of trace memories. The aim of this review is to integrate cognitive and neurobiological accounts of trace conditioning from preclinical and clinical studies to examine involvement of working and declarative memory.

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