The Neural Substrates of Higher-Order Conditioned Fear - Scientia Professor Fred Westbrook

What is this research about?

Rats and people learn to fear cues that signal innate sources of danger, e.g., pain, as well as cues that signal learned sources of danger, e.g., the sound of gunfire. Pavlov (1927) termed the former type of learning, first-order conditioning, and the latter type second-order conditioning.

Both types of fear depend on the amygdala but their molecular signatures are different. This project examines the nature of these differences: specifically, the interaction between gene transcription and protein synthesis in consolidation of the two types of fear, including the epigenetic mechanisms that mediate that interaction (DNA methylation, histone acetylation).

Other researchers involved:

Dr. Nathan Holmes

Belinda Lay

Professor David Glanzman (University of Californian at Los Angeles)

Dr. Vincent Laurent

Professor Simon Killcross

Publications relating to this research:

Holmes, N. M., Cai, S. Y., Lay, B. P. P., Watts, N. R., & Westbrook, R. F. (2014). Extinguished second-order fear responses are renewed but not reinstated. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning & Cognition, 40(4), 440-458.


Westbrook, R. F., & Killcross, A. S. Neural substrates of higher-order conditioned fear. ARC Project Grant (2013 – 2015).


To find out more about this research, please contact Scientia Professor Fred Westbrook