Typical information processing is thought to depend on the integrity of neurobiological oscillations that may underlie coordination and timing of cells and assemblies within and between structures. The 3-7 Hz bandwidth of hippocampal theta rhythm is associated with cognitive processes essential to learning and depends on the integrity of cholinergic, GABAergic, and glutamatergic forebrain systems. Since several significant psychiatric disorders appear to result from dysfunction of medial temporal lobe (MTL) neurochemical systems, preclinical studies on animal models may be an important step in defining and treating such syndromes. Many studies have shown that the amount of hippocampal theta in the rabbit strongly predicts the acquisition rate of classical eyeblink conditioning and that impairment of this system substantially slows the rate of learning and attainment of asymptotic performance. Our lab has developed a brain-computer interface that makes eyeblink training trials contingent upon the explicit presence or absence of hippocampal theta. The behavioral benefit of theta-contingent training has been demonstrated in both delay and trace forms of the paradigm with a two- to fourfold increase in learning speed over non-theta states. The non-theta behavioral impairment is accompanied by disruption of the amplitude and synchrony of hippocampal local field potentials, multiple-unit excitation, and single-unit response patterns dependent on theta state. Our findings indicate a significant electrophysiological and behavioral impact of the pretrial state of the hippocampus that suggests an important role for this MTL system in associative learning and a significant deleterious impact in the absence of theta. Here, we focus on the impairments in the non-theta state, integrate them into current models of psychiatric disorders, and suggest how improvement in our understanding of neurobiological oscillations is critical for theories and treatment of psychiatric pathology.