State-dependent Learning produced with Steroids


THERE have been three sets of discoveries on the effects of chemical substances on behaviour. First, it has been shown that chemical agents, especially endocrine hormones, can predispose animals to display particular species-typical (“instinctive”) actions such as mating, nest building and care of the young1,2. Second, it has been found that generalized stimulating, anti-depressant, tranquillizing or psychotomimetic effects on behaviour can be produced by certain chemical agents sometimes referred to as “psychotropic” drugs3. Third, it has been established that a response learned in a given chemical state is more likely to occur when the subject is in that particular state than when he is not; this phenomenon is called state-dependent learning or “drug dissociation”4. Only the third discovery indicates that it may be possible to obtain specific or discriminative chemical control over any chosen response through learning. It provides a means for understanding how the specific idiosyncratic response patterns comprising “personality” could come under chemical control.

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STEWART, J., KREBS, W. & KACZENDER, E. State-dependent Learning produced with Steroids. Nature 216, 1223–1224 (1967).

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