Study level

  • Vacation research experience scheme


Topic status

In progress.

Research centre


Professor Ottmar Lipp
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Health

External supervisors

  • Luke Ney (QUT)


The fear conditioning paradigm is an internationally renowned test of associative learning and has high relevance to anxiety disorders and PTSD, such that the paradigm is recognised by the American NIMH as a Research Domain Criteria. However, the nature of the aversive stimuli typically used in the paradigm are acknowledged to not be entirely compatible with disorders that this paradigm is designed to mimic. Consequently, significant research investment into this paradigm has yielded relatively few treatment improvements in the clinic.

The project aims to test several variations of aversive stimuli during fear conditioning to:

  • improve the salience and validity of aversive stimuli in the paradigm without increasing aversiveness
  • test whether these variations result in different learning processes that can elicit new data with higher relevance to anxiety and PTSD.

Successful outcomes from this project will result in international publications advising new methods for improving the validity of the paradigm to a growing global research audience.

Research activities

Anticipated research activities include:

  • literature search and review
  • preparing ethics application
  • laboratory experiments
  • participant recruitment
  • data collection
  • data entry.

You will be working directly with Postdoctoral Research Fellow Luke Ney and indirectly with Professor Ottmar Lipp on this project. The work space and resources are all provided under Professor Ottmar Lipp's laboratory setup at QUT Kelvin Grove (Level 4 O Block, B Wing, near the HDR space).


This project aims to determine whether variations to the conventional fear conditioning paradigm improves its validity to conditions such as PTSD and anxiety. Successful outcomes of the project will inform future studies that will aim to improve treatments for these disorders.

Skills and experience

Prior knowledge about the following is essential:

  • basic psychological principles and experimentation (i.e. completed courses PYB100, PYB102, PYB110)
  • knowledge of how to use excel or SPSS for data entry

Desirable skills include:

  • More in depth knowledge of the principles of memory and psychological research, i.e. completion of PYB210, PYB204, PYB304, PYB306, PYB350

All laboratory/experimental processes will be taught and to assist with literature review, VRES participant will need to conduct literature search and synthesis. Based on the initial findings from the study described above, we will submit ethics applications for further research.



Contact Luke Ney at for more information.