The model system of classical conditioning of the eyeblink response in rabbits an(i humans has he potential to elucidate brain mechanisms involved in learning, memory, and aging. Considerable evidence exists that memory has at least two major forms: one requiring conscious recollection of specific learning episodes (""""""""explicit"""""""" memory), and the other involving the expression of learning hat is automatic, without conscious or deliberate recollection (""""""""implicit"""""""" memory). Studies of classical conditioning in human aging are of particular significance because data may elaborate or challenge theoretical perspectives on memory systems. Research is proposed: (a) to describe more extensively age differences in classical conditioning over the adult human life span, (b) to test hypotheses about mechanisms involved in age effects on classical conditioning, and (c) to explore he cohesion of the theoretical construct of implicit memory in normal older adults and patients with focal brain lesions. A major aim of the first study is to determine the age period when the largest age differences in eyeblink conditioning occur. Adults aged 30-99 years will be classically , conditioned and will be assessed on a battery of neuropsychological tests. We hypothesize that age differences will emerge in the period between 45 and 55 years of age -- a period when the decline in reaction time and Purkinje cell loss accelerate. Simple reaction time and neuropsychological measures of timing (cerebellar function) should be the best predictors of efficiency of classical conditioning. A major aim of the second study is to determine whether there are conditions of optimal timing of the CS-US interval between the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus for middle-aged and older adults when associative learning will be equal to that in the young. A major tim of the third study is to determine how much of the effect of age on classical conditioning is due to health. A major aim of the fourth study is to explore brain memory systems in patients with focal lesions and the role of focal brain damage in implicit and explicit memory tasks. Data from :his project will link behavioral aging effects to the cerebellum and associate learning and memory deficits in aging to this brain structure which is understudied by gerontologists. Results will extend he empirical base of knowledge on aging and eyeblink classical conditioning as a form of implicit memory. We expect to demonstrate that implicit memory tasks are performed in a consistent manner in focal lesion patients, but are dissociated (with some implicit memory tasks showing stability while others show decline) in normal aging when brain changes are not focal.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Madlyn/Leonard Abramson Center/Jewish Life
North Wales
United States
Zip Code
Tobia, Michael J; Woodruff-Pak, Diana S (2009) Delay eyeblink classical conditioning is impaired in Fragile X syndrome. Behav Neurosci 123:665-76
Woodruff-Pak, D S; Jaeger, M E; Gorman, C et al. (1999) Relationships among age, conditioned stimulus-unconditioned stimulus interval, and neuropsychological test performance. Neuropsychology 13:90-102
Woodruff-Pak, D S; Jaeger, M E (1998) Predictors of eyeblink classical conditioning over the adult age span. Psychol Aging 13:193-205
Green, J T; Woodruff-Pak, D S (1997) Concurrent eyeblink classical conditioning and rotary pursuit performance: implications for independent nondeclarative memory systems. Neuropsychology 11:474-87
Papka, M; Woodruff-Pak, D S (1996) Number of trials needed to assess human eyeblink classical conditioning. Psychol Aging 11:373-6
Woodruff-Pak, D S; Romano, S; Papka, M (1996) Training to criterion in eyeblink classical conditioning in Alzheimer's disease, Down's syndrome with Alzheimer's disease, and healthy elderly. Behav Neurosci 110:22-9
Woodruff-Pak, D S; Papka, M (1996) Alzheimer's disease and eyeblink conditioning: 750 ms trace vs. 400 ms delay paradigm. Neurobiol Aging 17:397-404
Woodruff-Pak, D S; Papka, M; Romano, S et al. (1996) Eyeblink classical conditioning in Alzheimer's disease and cerebrovascular dementia. Neurobiol Aging 17:505-12
Woodruff-Pak, D S; Papka, M (1996) Huntington's disease and eyeblink classical conditioning: normal learning but abnormal timing. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 2:323-34
Woodruff-Pak, D S; Trojanowski, J Q (1996) The older rabbit as an animal model: implications for Alzheimer's disease. Neurobiol Aging 17:283-90

Showing the most recent 10 out of 17 publications