Conditional tonic stimulus control of nonspecific arousal

H. D. Kimmel, N. Birbaumer, T. Elbert, W. Lutzenberger, B. Rockstroh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Subjects performed a reaction time (RT) task in the presence of colored indirect lighting which had previously been associated with either sporadic electric shock (Unsafe context) or no shock (Safe context). Autonomic and cortical processes were influenced by the visual context in two ways. Nonspecific arousal was elevated in the Unsafe context as compared with the Safe context (larger SCR and more accelerative HR change elicited by the RT warning stimulus, and retarded habituation of the middle component of the slow cortical potential during the warning stimulus). In addition, information processing may have been impaired in the Unsafe as compared to the Safe context, since the earliest component of the SCR and the N100 component of the auditory evoked potential were both reduced. Higher frequency of unelicited SCR was observed following changes from a Safe to an Unsafe context than with reverse changes, during the association of these contexts with shock, but this was the only evidence of direct tonic conditioning. In general, the results demonstrate the degree to which psychophysiological processes may be influenced by tonic environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-143
Number of pages8
JournalThe Pavlovian Journal of Biological Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Medicine(all)


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