Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

G.H. Rose

Second Advisor

S. Hendricks

Third Advisor

W. deGraw


The objectives of this experiment were (a) to study the development of classical conditioning in the kitten using light as the conditioned stimulus (CS) , shock as the unconditioned stimulus (US), and leg flexion as the conditioned response; (b) to investigate physiological correlates of learning during the development of classical conditioning such as visual evoked responses (VER), visual following (VF), electrocardiogram (EKG), and galvanic skin response (GSR); and (c) to ascertain the relationship, during development, between physiological and behavioral changes associated with conditioning.

Four kittens were exposed to two classical conditioning paradigms. Two Ss received a continuous 10 sec. light paired from the 9th to the 10th sec. with shock, and two received 5 light flashes 2 secs, apart, the last being paired with shock. Four control Ss received the same number of photic stimuli and shocks as their experimental counterparts but on no occasion was light and shock paired. GSR, EKG, VERS and leg-flexion responses were recorded from all 8 animals during a 24 day experimental period.

No obvious evidence was found for learning except for suggestive changes in GSR responses. However, it was observed that the development of the short-latency positive and negative N1components of the Ss VERs appeared later than normal or not at all. On the other hand, the long-latency N2 wave demonstrated precociousness showing larger amplitudes and in one of the two paradigms, shorter latencies than normal.

The dominant waveform observed throughout the development of the VER in the kittens used in this study was the long-latency negative N2 wave followed by a huge positive after-swing. The typical "W-wave usually observed in the adult catTs VER was over-shadowed by the positive-negative complex and in many cases never appeared.

A comparison of four VERs obtained from the kitLens in paradigm II (intermittent light) revealed that they were able to give comparable or nearly comparable VERs at 10 days of age to light flashed 2 seconds apart. This suggests that when shocked, the kittens may develop this ability sometime prior to 10 days postnatally.

The average latencies of the N2 waves for the kittens used in paradigm I were found to be shorter than that observed in unshocked kittens (Rose, 1971). However, these latencies showed the normal trend of decreasing with age as was observed by Rose.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska at Omaha In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts.

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