Pavlovian conditioning of peripheral and central components of the baroreceptor reflex

H. Rau, T. Elbert, W. Lutzenberger, F. Eves, B. Rockstroh, W. Larbig, N. Birbaumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pavlovian conditioning of central nervous and autonomic responses to the baroreceptor reflex was investigated in 26 normotensive subjects. Cardiovascular and central nervous components of the baroreceptor reflex were elicited using an air-tight cuff around the neck. Subatmospheric (negative) pressure (UCS+) within the cuff stimulates the carotid baroreceptors, while positive cuff pressure (UCS-) tends to inhibit baroreceptor activity. During an acquisition period 32 UCS+ trials alternated pseudorandomly with 32 UCS- trials, each being paired with a CS+ or CS-. During a subsequent forced extinction period the cuff was removed and the CSs were presented alone for 6s intervals. When compared with UCS- as well as with prestimulus baseline, UCS+ produced significant heart rate (HR) deceleration and elevation of digital pulse amplitude (DPA), indicating the efficacy of the stimulation method. T-wave amplitude (TWA) reacted biphasically to the stimulation. Contingent negative variation (CNV) decreased during the UCS+ interval, indicating cortical inhibition through baroreceptor activation. In the first half of the extinction phase presentation of CS+ elicited the reflex responses HR deceleration, TWA reduction, and early enhancement of the CNV. These responses extinguished during the second half of the extinction phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-127
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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