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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #394
CE Offered: BACB
A Neuroplasticity Centered Approach to the Intersection of Neuroscience and Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 25, 2015
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
007C (CC)
Area: TPC/EAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Teresa C Kolu (Cusp Emergence)
CE Instructor: Teresa C Kolu, Ph.D.
Abstract: The fields of neuroscience and behavior analysis have established rich bodies of independent knowledge. Despite the separation of their respective levels of analysis, the two fields are intrinsically connected: environment-behavior relations involve an organism endowed with a nervous system, and that nervous system is structurally determined in part by environment-behavior relations. Of the many approaches to neuroscience, the study of brain adaptation and change (neural plasticity) provides the most likely point of intersection with behavior analysis. This subfield seeks to account for both common structural specializations in the brain and the highly variable and malleable nature of many of those specializations by elucidating the range of conditions under which they develop rather than simply specifying their typical form. Highly compatible with the selectionist approach advocated by Skinner and others, a focus on plasticity opens the door to parsimonious explanations of a range of phenomena. In this symposium, we will highlight the distinction between neuroplasticity-centered and other approaches to studying structural specialization in the brain. We will then explore a few brain regions which become engaged in plastic processes in meaningful ways during behaviorally relevant events
Keyword(s): behavioral neuroscience, neuroscience, plasticity
Essentialism and Selectionism in the Neurosciences
DANIELE ORTU (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Within neuroscientific research it is possible to distinguish between two approaches: the neuropsychological perspective - concerned with mapping cognitive processes to specific brain areas - and the neuroplasticity approach, focused on the mechanisms of neural change and adaptation. Experimental evidence is typically used in neuropsychology to ‘dissociate’ processes. For instance, when brain Area X is necessary for carrying out Operation A but not Operation B, and brain Area Y is required for Operation B but not Operation A, neuropsychologists use that evidence to extrapolate that there is a ‘double dissociation’ of the processes involved, i.e. different processes supported by different areas are engaged across experimental conditions. Conversely a neuroplasticity approach might investigate under which conditions Area X can carry out Operation A or B, and Area Y can carry out Operation B or A, searching for each area's adaptive boundaries. The difference between the two perspectives is not just a discrepancy in methods, but lies deep into the contrast between an essentialist and a selectionist philosophical approach. We propose that essentialistic descriptions of the neocortex may be masking its adaptive qualities, as demonstrated by the flexibility in which many neocortical operations are carried out.
Neuromodulation, Brain Plasticity and Behavior Analysis
APRIL M. BECKER (The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Cente)
Abstract: This presentation will focus on the relationship between modulated neural plasticity and behavior analysis and will submit basic research that could lead to clinical applications of such knowledge. “Functional” neural plasticity, or specific changes in patterns of cellular activation in relation to stimuli and responses, often occurs during learning. A wide body of research reveals that both neural plasticity and behavior change are linked to the activation of deep brain structures where many cells are capable of firing in phase with one another and in response to behaviorally important events such as reinforcement. This coordinated firing delivers transmitters capable of modulating the rules for neural changes (neuromodulators) across large portions of the brain; these neuromodulators include dopamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine and serotonin. The traditional descriptions used by neuroscientists to describe the function of these systems in terms of their associated psychological processes such as mood and attention, are unnecessary when investigating their role in learning and plasticity. The effects of the manipulation of neuromodulatory systems reveal interesting insights into that role, and present potential targets for optimizing functional and behavioral change during interventions in clinical settings.
The Role of Behavioral Interpretations in the Investigation of Brain Function
CALEB D. HUDGINS (Rutgers University)
Abstract: Accumulating evidence suggests the hippocampus is necessary for learning Pavlovian trace fear conditioning, but not delay fear conditioning. To further complicate this issue, general deficits in learning trace versus delay conditioning have been debated since the procedures were investigated by Pavlov. The major procedural difference is the insertion of a temporal gap between the offset of the CS and onset of the US in trace conditioning. The learning differences between these two tasks has historically been attributed to this temporal gap, with common interpretations invoking hypothetical mechanisms ranging from the “neural trace,” to storage and retrieval of neural representations and memories. Such interpretations suggest the animal is ultimately learning the same CS-US contingency in both tasks, just to a lesser extent in trace conditioning; however, a more rigorous behavior analysis suggests otherwise. Our findings suggest that organisms learn two critically different stimulus-stimulus contingencies within the two tasks, and that it is not the temporal gap per se but the differences between these contingency arrangements that may differentially engage the hippocampus. These data have implications for how we interpret the role of the hippocampus in trace conditioning, suggesting a role for variables contributing to contextual conditioning.



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