Lateralization and behavioral correlation of changes in regional cerebral blood flow with classical conditioning of the human eyeblink response

Author(s): Schreurs BG, McIntosh AR, Bahro M, Herscovitch P, Sunderland T, et al.


Laterality of changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) during classical conditioning of the human eyeblink response was studied and changes in rCBF were correlated with conditioned responses. In 10 normal volunteers, rCBF was mapped with positron emission tomography and H2(15)O during pairings of a binaural tone conditioned stimulus and an air puff unconditioned stimulus to the left eye. Control conditions consisted of explicitly unpaired presentations of the tone and air puff before (control) and after (extinction) pairings. During pairings, rCBF increased significantly in right primary auditory cortex (contralateral to air puff) and decreased significantly in left and right cerebellar cortex. There were also increases in rCBF in right auditory association cortex and left temporoccipital cortex. Decreases in rCBF were noted bilaterally in the temporal poles and in the left prefrontal cortex. Positive correlations between changes in rCBF and percent conditioned responses were located in middle cerebellum, right superior temporal cortex, left dorsal premotor cortex, right middle cingulate, and right superior temporal cortex. There were negative correlations in left inferior prefrontal cortex, left middle prefrontal cortex, and right inferior parietal cortex. The data replicate our previous findings of lateralized changes in rCBF following presentations of a binaural tone and air puff to the right eye and indicate that there are pairing-specific changes in primary auditory cortex and cerebellum that are not unique to the left or right hemisphere but are a function of the side of training. The commonalities as well as differences in regional involvement in our present and previous experiment as well as in other eyeblink studies illustrate the advantage of functional neuroimaging to quantify different strategies used by the brain to perform seemingly similar functions. Indeed, the data support the notion that learning-related changes can be detected in a number of specific, but not necessarily invariant, brain regions, and that the involvement of any one region is dependent on the characteristics of the particular learning situation.

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