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Aversive Pavlovian conditioning is an important tool used to investigate neurobiological mechanisms underlying the acquisition and expression of fear. Most studies have used nonprimate species employing electrical shock as the unconditioned stimulus (US). Although important advances have been made in understanding the neural substrates of conditioned fear, the extent to which these findings apply to primates is unclear. Research in primates has not progressed because of the lack of a conditioning paradigm that does not use shock. Therefore, we developed a method that uses a US consisting of a loud noise coupled with a stream of compressed air aimed at the face to aversively condition heart rate response in rhesus monkeys. With this US, rhesus monkeys rapidly acquire a conditioned bradycardia. The availability of an easy, reliable, and efficient method of aversive conditioning that does not require electrical shock, will facilitate studies investigating neurobiological mechanisms underlying the acquisition and expression of fear in primates.
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