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Learn Mem. 2014 Mar 18;21(4):232-52. doi: 10.1101/lm.032995.113.

Pain-relief learning in flies, rats, and man: basic research and applied perspectives.

Author information

1
Leibniz Institut für Neurobiologie (LIN), Abteilung Genetik von Lernen und Gedächtnis, 39118 Magdeburg, Germany.

Abstract

Memories relating to a painful, negative event are adaptive and can be stored for a lifetime to support preemptive avoidance, escape, or attack behavior. However, under unfavorable circumstances such memories can become overwhelmingly powerful. They may trigger excessively negative psychological states and uncontrollable avoidance of locations, objects, or social interactions. It is therefore obvious that any process to counteract such effects will be of value. In this context, we stress from a basic-research perspective that painful, negative events are "Janus-faced" in the sense that there are actually two aspects about them that are worth remembering: What made them happen and what made them cease. We review published findings from fruit flies, rats, and man showing that both aspects, respectively related to the onset and the offset of the negative event, induce distinct and oppositely valenced memories: Stimuli experienced before an electric shock acquire negative valence as they signal upcoming punishment, whereas stimuli experienced after an electric shock acquire positive valence because of their association with the relieving cessation of pain. We discuss how memories for such punishment- and relief-learning are organized, how this organization fits into the threat-imminence model of defensive behavior, and what perspectives these considerations offer for applied psychology in the context of trauma, panic, and nonsuicidal self-injury.

PMID:
24643725
PMCID:
PMC3966540
DOI:
10.1101/lm.032995.113
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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