The strength of aversive and appetitive associations and maladaptive behaviors

Yossef Itzhak, Daniel Perez-Lanza, Shervin Liddie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Certain maladaptive behaviors are thought to be acquired through classical Pavlovian conditioning. Exaggerated fear response, which can develop through Pavlovian conditioning, is associated with acquired anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs). Inflated reward-seeking behavior, which develops through Pavlovian conditioning, underlies some types of addictive behavior (e.g., addiction to drugs, food, and gambling). These maladaptive behaviors are dependent on associative learning and the development of long-term memory (LTM). In animal models, an aversive reinforcer (fear conditioning) encodes an aversive contextual and cued LTM. On the other hand, an appetitive reinforcer results in conditioned place preference (CPP) that encodes an appetitive contextual LTM. The literature on weak and strong associative learning pertaining to the development of aversive and appetitive LTM is relatively scarce; thus, this review is particularly focused on the strength of associative learning. The strength of associative learning is dependent on the valence of the reinforcer and the salience of the conditioned stimulus that ultimately sways the strength of the memory trace. Our studies suggest that labile (weak) aversive and appetitive LTM may share similar signaling pathways, whereas stable (strong) aversive and appetitive LTM is mediated through different pathways. In addition, we provide some evidence suggesting that extinction of aversive fear memory and appetitive drug memory is likely to be mediated through different signaling molecules. We put forward the importance of studies aimed to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of weak and strong memories (aversive and appetitive), which would ultimately help in the development of targeted pharmacotherapies for the management of maladaptive behaviors that arise from classical Pavlovian conditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-571
Number of pages13
JournalIUBMB life
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2014


  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • appetitive memory
  • aversive memory
  • cocaine
  • fear conditioning
  • memory strength
  • nitric oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'The strength of aversive and appetitive associations and maladaptive behaviors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this