Effect of Delay Interval on Classical Eyeblink Conditioning in 5-Month-Old Human Infants

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Associative learning was evaluated in human infants with simple delay classical eyeblink conditioning. A tone conditioned stimulus (CS) was paired with an airpuff unconditioned stimulus (US) at three different delay intervals (250, 650, and 1,250 ms). Independent groups of healthy, full-term 5-month-old human infants were assigned to these three paired conditions and received two identical training sessions 1 week apart. The two longer delays resulted in associative conditioning, as confirmed by comparison with unpaired control groups. However, only at the 650-ms delay were associative eyeblinks adaptively timed to avoid the airpuff. The delay function at 5 months of age appears much sharper than is observed in adults. Together with the findings of A. H. Little, L. P. Lipsitt, and C. Rovee-Collier (1984), the present study suggests a downward shift in the optimal delay interval for associative eyeblink conditioning between 1 and 6 months of age. However, this delay remains longer than what is typically reported in adults.



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