Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #94
Advances in the Analysis of Behavior-Physiology Relations
Saturday, May 27, 2023
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 1C/D
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Joseph D. Dracobly (University of North Texas)
CE Instructor: Joseph D. Dracobly, Ph.D.

As the science of behavior advances, we seek new ways to understand the dynamic variables that influence behavior. With the advancement of technology, behavior analysts are better able to look "under the skin," and understand how a variety of physiological variables interact with other behavior-environment relations. In this symposium, researchers will present three recent advancements in the investigation of the interaction between physiology and behavior, including a method for identifying trauma-related stimuli in the everyday environment, an investigation of the relationship between heart rate and severe problem behavior, and a demonstration of the utility of measuring heart rate in the treatment of phobias. Each study will present unique insights into these dynamics and include practical strategies for including these measures to enhance more precise, wholistic interventions.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): heart rate, phobia, problem behavior, technology
Target Audience:

Intermediate to advanced; Attendees should have experience in the assessment and treatment of either severe behavior disorders or other psychological conditions (e.g., phobia).

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe a method to identify trauma-related stimuli present in the everyday environment through analysis of heart rate and various parameters of choice during preference assessments; (2) describe how to analyze the relationship between heart rate and problem behavior and functional properties of problem behavior; (3) describe the utility of measuring heart rate in the assessment and treatment of phobias.

An Evaluation of the Effects of Trauma-Related Stimuli on Behavior and Heartrate During Preference Assessments

AARON JOSEPH SANCHEZ (University of North Texas), Elizabeth Joy Houck (University of North Texas), Joseph D. Dracobly (University of North Texas), Melanie Bauer (University of North Texas), Danielle Pelletier (University of North Texas), Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas)

Traumatic events can result in persistent, undesirable behavior changes, detrimental to one’s quality of life. Some "triggers,” stimuli related to traumatic events, may be difficult or impossible to avoid. People with intellectual disabilities (ID) are often unable to tact their “triggers”. Objective procedures to identify “triggers,” not requiring advanced verbal behavior, represent an opportunity for effective and compassionate care. In this study, we evaluated a method to assess the effects of trauma-related stimuli on behavior of adults with ID. We measured heartrate, freezing, scanning, choice latency, and selection order during preference assessments in the presence and absence of trauma-related stimuli. Our results suggest these additional measures used during preference assessments could be useful in identifying “triggers” for people with limited verbal communication skills. Objective procedures that can be used to identify “triggers” could improve compassionate care for people with ID and a history of exposure to traumatic events.

Heart Rate as a Predictive Biomarker for Severe Destructive Behavior
LIAM MCCABE (Rutgers University), Brian D. Greer (Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School)
Abstract: Previous studies have examined the predictive validity of heart rate (HR) on severe destructive behavior, however such research has yet to improve clinical procedures or our understanding of physiology and destructive behavior. The purpose of this study was to examine the predictive validity of HR on varying topographies and functions of destructive behavior while controlling antecedent and consequent events through functional analyses (FA). In Experiment 1, we assessed the reliability of the Polar H10 HR monitor and the feasibility of its use in an analog FA session using a confederate participant and found that the Polar H10 HR monitor was a reliable measure of HR. In Experiment 2, we examined the predictive validity of HR on destructive behavior and the patterns of physiological arousal across within-session intervals of reinforcer presence or absence in four children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Results of Experiment 2 indicated that HR was not a reliable predictor of either automatically or socially reinforced destructive behavior. However, we found that measurement of reinforcer presence or absence was sufficient to predict socially reinforced destructive behavior. Although HR was not predictive of destructive behavior, we have provided a procedural framework for future assessment of other biological measures.
Measuring Heart Rate During Treatment of Needle Phobia
LINDSAY LLOVERAS (University of Florida ), Kerri P. Peters (University of Florida)
Abstract: There are many empirically validated treatments for needle phobia that have been evaluated with both participants with and without autism spectrum disorder, such as differential reinforcement and stimulus fading. These studies typically include problem behavior or questionnaire data as the primary dependent variables to demonstrate treatment effectiveness. However, some of the most socially valid dependent variables are not visible to the casual observer; they occur beneath the skin, but nonetheless can be directly measured. The current study used wearable heart rate monitors during treatment of needle phobia in participants with histories of problem behavior in the context of blood draws and medical procedures involving needles. We present these physiological data along with observable behavior data as dependent measures during treatment. Ethical implications for treatment of problem behavior in aversive contexts are considered. We discuss potential future applications including using heart rate monitors during treatment of phobias and problem behavior during aversive contexts.



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