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Charlotte Bonardi




My main interest is in associative learning, a process that seems to be designed to let us learn about the causal structure of the world around us, allowing us to predict and control our environment.  It is clear that this type of learning is important for the most basic aspects of our daily life, and it is found throughout the animal kingdom.  Some psychologists also argue that networks of associations might underlie more complex types of learning in human subjects, such as concept formation and language.  If this view is correct, then it is important for us to have a thorough understanding of associative processes and the limits of what they can explain.  My research is (paradoxically)  mainly concerned with types of learning that are assumed not to be easily explained in terms of association formation: the aim is to examine whether modifications of associative theory could allow it to accommodate these apparently nonassociative phenomena.   My previous and current work addresses the following topics:

Conditional learning


Hippocampus and learning

When learning goes wrong: Alzheimer's disease and Schizophrenia

Learning and Addiction

Conditional learning:  In some circumstances a particular item can have different associates depending on the conditions in which it is presented: for example, for a bilingual person the sight of a sheep (say) is going to be associated with different verbal labels depending on the language that they are speaking.  It appears as though the context is switching between the different associations that have been formed.  This process, known as conditional learning (or occasion setting) cannot be explained in terms of simple associations.  I have developed an associative-type account of conditional learning, that makes specific predictions about how conditional cues function.  Some of my current research is aimed at testing this hierarchical account of conditional learning.

Timing: When a stimulus of a particular duration (e.g. 20 seconds) predicts a particular outcome, association formation allows learning that the stimulus predicts the outcome - but not learning when (i.e. outcome will occur 20 seconds after stimulus onset).  Learning about time in this way does occur, but most associative theories cannot easily explain it, and make relatively few predictions about the effects of the temporal characteristics of cues on associative learning phenomena.  In a collaboration with Dr Dómhnall Jennings (University of Newcastle), we are investigating the way in which associative theories can represent temporal cues, with a view to developing an associative account of timing effects. We are also, in collaboration with Dr Eduardo Alonso (City University) and Dr Esther Mondragón (Centre for Computational and Animal Learning Research), using simulations to evaluate whether our findings can be accommodated by associative theories.

Hippocampus and learning: Damage to the hippocampus produces a complex range of cognitive deficits, for example in spatial learning; however, association formation is usually said to be intact, implying that associative learning does not underly the skills that are affected by hippocampal damage.  However, our recent work suggests that certain sorts of associative learning can be impaired after hippocampal damage, implying that an associative learning impairment could mediate the effects if hippocampal damage on, for example, spatial learning.  We aim to investigate those aspects of associative learning that are impaired by hippocampal damage, and the extent to which this can explain the other, more complex effects of such damage (p conducted with Dr Eric Tam, now at the University of Oxford).  

When learning goes wrong Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia:  In some conditions learning is impaired, and we can use what we know about associative theory to analyse these deficits.  For example, schizophrenia is often characterised by high impulsivity, which might be evident as a deficit in inhibitory learning; in a collaboration with Dr Helen Cassaday we confirmed this possibility (work conducted with Dr Zhimin He); related effects were observed in participants with certain types of personality disorder associated with impulsivity deficits.  Schizophrenia is also said to be characterised by a deficit in performance on tasks employing task-setting cues - which are formally equivalent to conditional cues (see above); this leads to the question whether such deficits are also evident in subjects with high schizotypy.  Finally, Alzheimer's disease is characterised by a wide range of cognitive impairments, and yet many of these have not been precisely characterised in associative terms.  In collaboration with Dr Marie-Christine Pardon (School of Biomedical Sciences) and Mr Paul Armstrong, I am currently conducting a series of studies whose long term aim is to analyse the cognitive deficits in a genetically modified strain of mouse that is regarded as a translational model of Alzheimer's disease, and examine their underlying neurobiological correlates.

Learning and Addiction: Human drug seeking has been analysed in terms of classical conditioning: the ability of environmental cues to become associated with the effects of the drug can make them provoke drug-seeking behaviour. The mechanism underlying this process has been modelled by an effect called Pavlovian-instrumental transfer (PIT): if you have two outcomes, chocolate and tobacco, each produced by a different (drug-seeking response), then a conditioned stimulus that signals e.g. chocolate, will increase the level of the chocolate-seeking response more than the tobacco-seeking response (and vv). However, there is still relatively little understanding of how this effect is mediated, and this project would address this.

Related linkscal



1978-1982 Cambridge BA Hons (Natural Sciences)

1982-1986 CambridgePhD (Experimental Psychology)

1986-2004 University of York, Research Fellow

2004 - 2007 University of Nottingham, Lecturer

2007 University of Nottingham, Senior Lecturer


1986-1989 SERC Grant. Discriminative inhibition in associative learning

1990-199 SERC Grant. An analysis of modulatory stimulus function

1993-1996 SERC Grant Mechanisms of conditional learning: Formation of occasion setters and implications of acquired equivalence

1997-2000 BBSRC Grant A study of the associative mechanisms underlying conditional learning

2004-2007  BBSRC Grant.  A test of a hierarchical account of conditional learning

2008-2011  BBSRC grant in collaboration with Dr Dómhnall Jennings (University of Newcastle)  Towards an Integrated associative theory of conditioning and timing.


Copyright note

Some of the documents listed below are available for downloading. These documents have been provided as a means to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work on a noncommercial basis. Copyright and all rights therein are maintained by the authors or by other copyright holders, notwithstanding that the works have been made available electronically. It is understood that all persons will adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. These works may not be re-posted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

Bonardi, C.  (1988a).  Associative explanations of discriminative inhibition effects.  Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 40B, 63-82.pdf

Bonardi, C.  (1988b).  Mechanisms of inhibitory discriminative control.  Animal Learning and Behavior, 16, 445-450.pdf

Bonardi, C.  (1989).  Inhibitory discriminative control is specific to both the response and the reinforcer.  Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 41B, 225-242.pdf

Bonardi, C., Honey, R.C., & Hall, G.  (1990)  Context specificity of conditioning in flavor-aversion learning: Extinction and blocking tests.  Animal Learning and Behavior, 18, 229-237.pdf

Bonardi, C.  (1991).  Blocking of occasion setting in feature-positive discriminations.  Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 43B, 431-448.pdf

Bonardi, C., Guthrie, D., & Hall, G.  (1991)  The effect of a retention interval on habituation of the neophobic response.  Animal Learning and Behavior, 19, 11-17.pdf

Bonardi, C.  (1992).  Occasion setting without feature-positive discrimination training.  Learning and Motivation, 23, 343-367.pdf

Bonardi, C., Rey, V., Richmond, M, & Hall, G.  (1993).  Acquired equivalence of cues in pigeon autoshaping: Effects of training with common consequences and common antecedents.  Animal Learning and Behavior, 21, 369-376.pdf

Hall, G., Ray, E., & Bonardi, C.  (1993).  Acquired equivalence between cues trained with a common antecedent.   Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 19, 391-399.pdf

Honey, R.C., Hall, G., & Bonardi, C. (1993).  Negative priming in associative learning: Evidence from serial conditioning procedures.   Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 19, 90-97.pdf

Bonardi, C., & Hall, G.  (1994a).  A search for blocking of occasion setting using a nonexplicit training procedure.  Learning and Motivation, 25, 105-125.pdf

Bonardi, C., & Hall, G.  (1994b).  Occasion-setting training renders stimuli more similar: Acquired equivalence between the targets of feature-positive discriminations.  Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 47B, 63-81.pdf

Bonardi, C., & Hall, G.  (1994c).  Discriminative inhibition is specific to the response-reinforcer association but not to the discriminative stimulus.   Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 20, 278-291.pdf

de Brugada, I.,  Garcia-Hoz, V., Bonardi, C., & Hall, G.  (1995).  The role of stimulus ambiguity in conditional learning.   Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 21, 275-284.pdf

Purves, D., Bonardi, C., & Hall, G.  (1995).  Enhancement of latent inhibition in rats with electrolytic lesions of the hippocampus.  Behavioral Neuroscience, 109, 366-370.pdf

Bonardi, C., & Hall, G.  (1996).  Learned irrelevance: No more that the sum of CS and US preexposure effects?  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 22, 183-191.pdf

Bonardi, C.  (1996).  Transfer of occasion setting: The role of generalization decrement.  Animal Learning and Behavior, 24, 277-289.pdf

Hall, G., Purves, D., & Bonardi, C.  (1996).  Contextual control of conditioned responding in rats with dorsal hippocampal lesions.  Behavioral Neuroscience, 110, 933-945.pdf

Hitchcott, P.K., Bonardi, C., & Phillips, G.D. (1997).  Enhanced stimulus-reward learning by intra-amygdala administration of a D3 dopamine receptor antagonist.  Psychopharmacology, 133, 240-248.pdf

Bonardi, C. (1998).  Conditional learning: An associative analysis.  In P.C. Holland and N.A. Schmajuk (Eds.) Associative learning and cognition in animals: Occasion setting.  Washington, D.C.:APA

Bonardi, C., & Ward-Robinson, J. (2001).  Occasion setters: Specificity to the US and the CS-US association.  Learning and Motivation, 32, 349-366.pdf 

Bonardi, C. (2001).   Dorsal hippocampal lesions impair appetitive classical conditioning to localized cues.  European Journal of Neuroscience, 13, 1435-1443. pdf 

Bonardi, C., & Ong, S.Y. (2003).  Learned irrelevance: a contemporary overview.  Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56B, 80-89.pdf

Mondragón, E., Bonardi, C., & Hall, G.  (2003). Negative priming and occasion setting  in an appetitive Pavlovian procedure.  Learning and Behavior, 31, 281-291.pdf

Blair, C.A.J., Bonardi, C., & Hall, G.  (2004).   Differential effects of 8-OH-DPAT on two forms of appetitive Pavlovian conditioning in the rat.   Behavioral Neuroscience, 118, 1439-1443.pdf  

Bonardi, C., Graham, S., Hall, G., & Mitchell C. (2005).    Acquired distinctiveness and equivalence in human discrimination learning: Evidence for an attentional process.  Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12, 88-92. pdf 

Bonardi., C., Hall., G., & Ong, S. Y.  (2005).    Analysis of the learned irrelevance effect in appetitive Pavlovian conditioning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology B, 58B, 141-162.pdf

Dunn, M., Futter, D., Bonardi, C., & Killcross, A.S.  (2005).  Attenuation of D-amphetamine-induced disruption of conditional discrimination performance by alpha-flupenthixol.  Psychopharmacology, 177, 296-306. pdf 

Bonardi, C. (2007).  Occasion setting is specific to the CS-US association.  Learning and Motivation, 38, 208-228.pdf

Jennings, D., Alonso, E., Mondragón, E., & Bonardi, C. (2006).  Temporal Uncertainty during overshadowing.  Proceedings of the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour: Adaptation in Artificial and Biological Systems. (T. Kovacs & A.R. Marshall, Eds.):  University of Bristol.

Bonardi, C., & Jennings, D. (2007).  Occasion setting of timing behaviour.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 33, 339-348.pdf

Jennings, D., Bonardi, C., & Kirkpatrick, K, (2007).  Stimulus duration effects in overshadowing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 33, 464-475.pdf

Bonardi, C., & Jennings, D. (2009).  Learning about associations: Evidence for a hierarchical account of occasion setting.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 35, 440-445.pdf

Bonardi, C., Bartle, C., Bowles, K., de Pulford, F., & Jennings, D.J. (2010) Some appetitive procedures for examining associative learning in the mouse:   Implications for psychopathology.  Behavioural Brain Research, 211, 240-247.pdf

Jennings, D.J., Alonso, E., Mondragón, E. & Bonardi, C. (2011). Temporal uncertainty during overshadowing: A temporal difference approach. In E. Alonso and E. Mondragón (Eds.). Computational Neuroscience for Advancing Artificial Intelligence: Models, Methods and Applications. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. pdf

Bonardi, C., de Pulford, F., Jennings, D., & Pardon, M-C. (2011).  A detailed analysis of the early context extinction deficits seen in APPswe/PS1dE9 female mice and their relevance to pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease. Behavioural Brain Research, 222, 89-97.pdf

He, Z., Cassaday, H.J., Howard, R.C., Khalifa, N.,  & Bonardi, C. (2012)  The normal inhibition of stimulus-stimulus associations is impaired in personality disorder. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 2334-2351 pdf

Tam, S.K.E., & Bonardi, C.  (2012a).  Dorsal hippocampal involvement in appetitive trace conditioning and interval timing Behavioural Neuroscience 126, 258-269.pdf

Tam, S.K.E. & Bonardi, C.  (2012b). Dorsal hippocampal lesions disrupt Pavlovian delay conditioning and conditioned-response timing. Behavioural Brain Research, 230, 259-267.pdf

Bonardi, C., Bartle, C., & Jennings, D. (2012). US specificity of occasion setting: Hierarchical of configural learning? Behavioural Processes, 90, 311-322.pdf

He, Z., Cassaday, H.J., Park, S.B.G,  & Bonardi, C. (2012) When to hold that thought: Reduced inhibition of pre-potent associations in schizophrenia   Plosone, 7, 1-9. pdf

Jennings, D., Alonso, E., Mondragòn, E., Franssen, M.,  & Bonardi, C. (2013). The effect of stimulus distribution form on the acquisition and rate of conditioned responding: Implications for theory Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 39, 233-248.pdf

Zhimin He, Helen J. Cassaday, Charlotte Bonardi & Peter A. Bibby. (2013).  Do personality traits predict individual differences in excitatory and inhibitory learning? Frontiers in Psychology: Personality Science and Individual Differences, 4, 245.pdf

Tam., S.K.E., Jennings, D.J., & Bonardi, C. (2013) Dorsal hippocampal involvement in conditioned-response timing and maintenance of temporal information in the absence of the CS. Experimental Brain Research, 227, 547-559.pdf

Tam, S.K.E., Robinson, J. J., Jennings, D. , & Bonardi, C.  (2014). Dissociations in the effect of delay on object recognition and the effect of dorsal hippocampal damage: Evidence for an associative model of recognition memory  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 40, 106-115. pdf

Mondragòn, E., Gray, J., Alonso, E., Bonardi, C., & Jennings, D. (2014). SSCC TD: A Serial and Simultaneous Configural-Cue Compound Stimuli Representation for Temporal Difference Learning. PlosOne, 9, e102469. pdf

Bonardi, C., Mondragón, E.,Brilot, B., & Jennings, D.J. (2015). Overshadowing by fixed and variable duration stimuli. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68, 523-542.

Tam, S.K.E., Jennings, D. , & Bonardi, C. (2015). Effects of Dorsal Hippocampal Damage on Conditioning and Conditioned-response Timing: A Pooled Analysis. Hippocampus, 25, 444-459.

Robinson, J., & Bonardi, C. (2015). An Associative Analysis of Object Memory. Behavioural Brain Research, 285, 1-9.

Tam, S.K.E., Bonardi, C., & Robinson, J. (2015). Relative Recency in Object-In-Context Memory Behavioural Brain Research, 281, 250-257.

Tunney, R.J., Allen, H.A., Bonardi, C., & Blake, H. (2015). The effects of ageing and exercise on recollection and familiarity based memory processes. In The Preservation of Memory: Theory and Practice for Clinical and Non-Clinical Populations (Bruno, D. Ed.) Taylor and Francis: Psychology Press.

Alarcón, D., & Bonardi, C. (2015). The effect of conditioned inhibition on the specific Pavlovian-instrumental transfer effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, In press.


I teach a part of the first year module on Addiction (C81ADD) second year module on Neuroscience and Behaviour (C82NAB), take some second year practical classes (C82MPR) and, along with Drs Tobias Bast, Mark Haselgrove and Jasper Ward-Robinson, teach a third year module Mechanisms in Learning and Psychopathology, which covers clinical issues and their relation to  learning theory, and neuroscientific research aimed at analysing, and identifying the locus of, various associative processes (C83MLP).  I also give a lecture on the use of animals in research for the Advanced Research Methods course (C8DAMS).

PROJECTS     I am happy to supervise projects in any general area of associative learning - if you are interested, get in touch!


I would be delighted to hear from you if you think you might be interested in studying for a PhD on anything related to my interests!

Contact Information

Charlotte Bonardi  (Senior Lecturer)

School of Psychology

University of Nottingham,

University Park

Nottingham NG7 2RD

tel:  +44 (0)115 84 67927

fax: +44 (0)115 95 15324


Content: email
HTML: Lee Melton

School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK
Tel: +44 [0]115-951-5361, Fax: +44 [0]115-951-5324