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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #395
The Integration of Applied Behavior Analysis, Surface Electromyography, and Physical Rehabilitation
Monday, May 31, 2021
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Area: CBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Rob J Goodhue (University of North Texas)
Discussant: Brennan Patrick Armshaw (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Since the 1950s, behavior analysts have used electromyography technology in basic experimental preparations to study muscular responses below the observable threshold. In that time, it has been well established that contingent feedback, with or without the participant's cognizance, can be used to select the amplitude of these small muscular responses. However, the applied utility of such techniques in targeting many physiological problems remains underexplored. In recent years, surface electromyography technology has advanced to become more portable, affordable, and accessible than ever before, allowing for the development of behavioral procedures that can greatly improve clinical rehabilitation outcomes. Although the technology is now widely available, the behavioral side of the matter is still understudied. The research presented in this symposium has addressed that disparity to enhance current therapeutic endeavors relating to dysphagia and astasis – significant difficulties in swallowing and walking respectively. Results will be discussed in the context of behavioral medicine and interdisciplinary efforts to create better lives for those recovering from musculoskeletal disorders.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): behavioral medicine, rehabilitation, surface electromyography, translational research
Operant Control of the Swallowing Response
ALDEN MARIE GARTRELL (University of North Texas)
Abstract: The process of swallowing can be described in four stages; the Oral-Preparatory phase, the Oral-Transit phase, the Pharyngeal phase and the Esophageal phase. Behavioral feeding procedures have been effective in aiding individuals resolve issues with the first two phases of swallowing. Medical procedures have been shown to be effective with individuals that have issues with the esophageal stage of swallowing. This presentation explores the utility of behavior analytic procedures in helping with the third or Pharyngeal stage of the swallowing response. In particular, this research explores the utility of surface electromyography (sEMG) in micro-shaping activation of the suprahyoid muscle which controls the action of the larynx in the swallowing response. Two healthy college-aged participants were exposed to contingencies promoting a more effortful and sustained swallowing response. The data show that activity of the suprahyoid muscle can be operantly conditioned. These results suggest that sEMG technology can be used to supplement contingencies of reinforcement and provide effective behavioral treatment and rehabilitation for Dysphagia.
Optimizing Feedback in Physical Therapy Procedures Following Total Knee Replacement
ROB J GOODHUE (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Knee osteoarthritis is a painful joint disease that results in significant limits in daily usage of the knee joint. The condition often leads to total knee arthroplasty (TKA) – more commonly known as total knee replacement. After TKA surgery, patients often lose proprioceptive sensation in their quadricep muscles, and physical therapists must use palpation to detect minute muscle movements and provide verbal feedback that may or may not be contingent on the desired performance. With those conventional techniques, some individuals never fully recover the lifestyle they had before surgery. To address the limitation of human detection and feedback delivery, the current study uses portable surface electromyography technology and custom smartphone applications to increase the measurement resolution of the exercise performance and to provide feedback that is contingent upon meeting electrical activation criteria. Using healthy college students as participants, a reinforcement procedure was designed to increase the strength of the vastus medialis muscle and was compared to a procedure analogous to contemporary physical therapy methodology. Results indicate that the amplitude of muscular responses can be strengthened and shaped by contingent feedback in a way that sets forth beneficial implications for future physical therapy treatments.



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