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 #390
Investigating the Contributions of Neuromodulatory Systems to Behavior-Environment Relations
Monday, May 29, 2023
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom F
Area: BPN/EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Grayson Butcher (University of North Texas)

Behavior analytic and neuroscientific fields of inquiry are complementary in that each contributes to the larger, cooperative venture of accounting for the activities of organisms (Donahoe, 2017; Skinner, 1972). Precise behavior analytic work is especially important for enabling the study of how neurological variables help instantiate behavior-environment functional relations. Thankfully, this sentiment has been increasingly appreciated by neuroscience communities, and demand for behavior analytically informed neuroscience is on the rise (e.g., Krakauer et al., 2017). In this symposium, we will share our research into how several brain systems contribute to the acquisition, maintenance, and/or allocation of behavior across several behavioral tasks. The specific brain systems under review are three neuromodulatory systems: the oxytocinergic system, dopaminergic system, and cholinergic system. The first talk will focus on the behavior analytic investigation of Oxytocin (OT) and its role in prosocial and antisocial behavior, specifically how OT may potentiate or depotentiate social consequences. The other two presentations will discuss the effects of direct electrical stimulation of the dopaminergic or cholinergic systems on recovery of skilled forelimb reaching in rats following ischemic stroke. The results of these studies indicate a role for both neuromodulatory systems in facilitating acquisition and/or allocation of operant behavior.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavioral neuroscience, neuromodulatory systems
Oxytocin and Social Reinforcement
CARLOS LOPEZ (University of North Texas), April M. Becker (University of North Texas; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)
Abstract: Oxytocin (OT) is a neuro-peptide that acts as a neuromodulator in the central nervous system as well as a hormone in the peripheral system. While the peripheral functions of OT have been identified and used for clinical application, its central functions remain unclear. Some studies investigating the central functions of OT suggest it promotes prosocial behavior while others suggest it promotes antisocial behavior towards outgroups or strangers. To address these irregularities, we investigated the effects of OT on social consequences. Furthermore, we explored the prefrontal cortex as a target of OT infusion, as opposed to other commonly targeted areas of the brain. Studies have shown some involvement of the prefrontal cortex in conditioned reinforcement. This area seems of interest as social behavior contains complex conditioned reinforcers. Our study investigated how OT may modulate prosocial and antisocial behavior by either potentiating or depotentiating social consequences. We used a rat model in a social release paradigm. The paradigm consisted of a free rat that could release a restrained rat by pressing a lever. The freed rats were infused with OT in prefrontal cortices to assess its effects on probability and latency of social release.
An Investigation of the Dopaminergic System’s Role in Reestablishing Motor Behavior Following Stroke
JARED T ARMSHAW (University North Texas), April M. Becker (University of North Texas; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)
Abstract: Strokes are a leading cause of disability in the United States. Neuroplasticity underlies gains in behavioral rehabilitation and functional recovery from stroke. A promising avenue toward promoting functional recovery is to manipulate naturally occurring neuroplasticity mechanisms, such as dopamine. The dopaminergic system facilitates neuroplasticity through several pathways. One of these pathways is the mesocorticolimbic pathway, which originates from the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This pathway promotes the facilitation of memory and learning processes through neuroplasticity. The dopaminergic system is a frequently investigated system for brain and behavior change studies. Stimulation of the VTA has shown promising results in reestablishing responses in lesion studies. In this project, we test the effects of phasic electrical stimulation of the VTA in close contiguity to successful skill forelimb reach responses in a rodent stroke model to drive functional recovery following stroke. The study was conducted in the context of a self-paced stroke assessment using fully implantable stimulators. This presentation discusses preliminary data comparing the recovery outcomes from stroke with and without supplementary VTA stimulation. We believe the self-paced stroke assessment, implantable stimulators, and operant arrangements will permit researchers to obtain results with greater generality.
Contributions of the Cholinergic Neuromodulatory System to Stroke Recovery
GRAYSON BUTCHER (University of North Texas), April M. Becker (University of North Texas; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)
Abstract: There is considerable evidence that neuromodulatory systems, like the cholinergic basal forebrain (CBF), underlie basic learning processes and could profitably be leveraged to influence conditioning in long-lasting and meaningful ways. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)--which achieves its effects through stimulation of cholinergic and other neuromodulatory systems–has shown promise in driving cortical and behavioral improvements with impairments like tinnitus, phantom limb pain, stroke, and TBI (Kilgard, 2012; Hulsey et al., 2016; Hays et al., 2014). Specific stimulation of the cholinergic basal forebrain has also been shown to drive the cortical plasticity underlying behavioral improvements in several tasks. That said, only one study has investigated the potential of direct stimulation of the CBF, but it is unclear if stimulation was given before or while engaging in the referent behavior (Mirza Agha et al., 2021). This study investigated the influence of precisely-timed electrical stimulation of the basal forebrain on poststroke recovery of skilled forelimb reaching in rats. Brief stimulation and sugarwater delivery was made contingent on successful forelimb reaching in the context of a percentile schedule of reinforcement. This presentation will share the results of this study and discuss the basic and translational implications. In general, it appears that the basal forebrain may contribute to relearning of skill reaching, following the stroke-induced cortical and behavioral impairments.



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