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 #67
CE Offered: BACB
Experimental, Applied, and Translational Research on Olfactory Stimulus Control in Rats and Dogs
Saturday, May 27, 2023
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom C
Area: EAB/AAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Annie Galizio (Middle Tennessee State University)
Discussant: Mark Galizio (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
CE Instructor: Annie Galizio, Ph.D.
Abstract: Conducting behavioral research in nonhuman animals requires that stimuli be presented in a modality appropriate for the subject. For rodents and canines, the dominant sense is olfaction. Given their keen sense of smell, rats and dogs would benefit from the use of olfactory stimuli in behavioral experiments. In this symposium, the presenters will share some recent research in the use of olfactory stimuli when working with rats and dogs. First, Dr. Jay Hinnenkamp will present a series of experiments in which olfactory stimuli were used as reinforcers to maintain responding in rats. Next, Sophia Kirkland will describe a self-made apparatus used to deliver olfactory stimuli into an operant chamber and establish stimulus control in rats. The final two presentations will focus on olfactory research with dogs. Dr. Nathaniel Hall will explain how canine olfactory detection may be a useful tool to limit the spread of microscopic invasive species. Finally, Dr. Timothy Edwards will present some of the challenges that arise when dogs are used to detect lung cancer. To conclude, Dr. Mark Galizio, who has significant experience with olfactory stimulus control in rats, will discuss the presentations and their contributions to our understanding of behavioral control by olfactory stimuli.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): dog, olfaction, rat, stimulus control
Target Audience: The target audience for this symposium is anyone who is interested in olfactory stimulus control and its potential applications for socially significant concerns. This includes students, researchers, and practitioners, especially those interested in work with rats or dogs. The translational nature of this symposium would appeal to basic researchers, applied researchers, and anyone interested in applied animal behavior. The ideal participant will have at least a basic understanding of the concepts of stimulus control and reinforcement.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe the use of olfactory stimuli as reinforcers for rats' behavior; (2) describe an apparatus for presenting olfactory stimuli to rats; (3) describe the application of olfactory stimulus control for canine detection of invasive species and lung cancer.
An Investigation of Olfactory Stimuli as Reinforcers for Female Rats’ Nose-Poking Behavior
(Basic Research)
JAY HINNENKAMP (Middle Tennessee State University), Annie Galizio (Middle Tennessee State University), Alexander Dunthorn (Middle Tennesse State University), Jordan Latham (Middle Tennessee State University), Mark Rust (Middle Tennessee State University)
Abstract: A variety of items and events, including food, water, cool air streams, and electrical brain stimulation have been shown to maintain responding in rats. This presentation will show data from three studies investigating the effects of contingent olfactory stimuli on responding in female rats. Across the three experiments, social, nonsocial, and control scents were created by blowing air through jars containing used rat bedding, clean rat bedding mixed with essential oils, and clean rat bedding, respectively. In the following experiments rats emitted nose-poke responses, and each response was followed by a brief puff of air from either a social, nonsocial, or control scent. Experiment 1 explored the ability of social and nonsocial olfactory stimuli to establish and maintain nose-poking responses in rats not deprived of food or water. Experiment 2 investigated the relative value of social and nonsocial olfactory stimuli within a free-operant choice procedure. Experiment 3 examined the effects of social isolation on rats’ preference for social and nonsocial stimuli. Clinical and theoretical implications for the results of all three experiments will be discussed.
Using Ambient Odor as an Independent Variable in Rat Training
(Basic Research)
SOPHIA BELLE KIRKLAND (University of North Texas), April M. Becker (University of North Texas; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to construct a functional ambient odor delivery and removal system, which can be used in an operant setting to train lever pressing in rats contingent on the manipulation of olfactory stimuli. Because ambient odors are contained in odorant particles suspended in the air, it is difficult for experimenters to manipulate these odorant stimuli with the same precision as auditory and visual stimuli. This is often achieved by using restricted odor-presenting apparatuses that require animals to nose poke in order to contact odorants, but such approaches do not allow for stimulus presentation from anywhere in the chamber or during nose poke-incompatible behavior, as is easier for visual and auditory modalities. Using an ambient odor which is suspended in the chamber surrounding the organism rather than simply in a restricted portal allows the organism to move freely while maintaining contact with the desired stimulus. I designed a wind tunnel-based apparatus for such odorant presentation, which controls unidirectional airflow through the chamber to present and remove scented air. In this presentation, I will share the rationale and design of the chamber, challenges that came along during its development, and experimental data collected using the apparatus.
Canine Olfactory Detection of Invasive Mussel Veligers
(Applied Research)
NATHANIEL HALL (Texas Tech University), Ashley Whitehead (Texas Tech University), Kaitlin Plate (Texas Tech University), Paul Bunker (Chiron K9, Somerset, TX), Debra DeShon (Mussel Dogs, Oakdale, CA), Bethany Steinkraus (Mussel Dogs, Oakdale, CA), Matthew Barnes (Texas Tech University )
Abstract: Invasive Dreissenid mussels act as ecosystem engineers having significant impact on native communities, frequently causing substantial economic damages. Mussel larvae (veligers) disperse and spread, typically through transport on watercraft, causing new invasions. Canine detection of these microscopic invasive freshwater mussel veligers maybe a real-time detection tool to help limit spread. This study used an automated olfactometer system to evaluate (1) whether dogs can be trained to detect water samples containing veligers (2) the minimum veliger concentration dogs can detect, and (3) accuracy of canines screening unknown lake samples for veliger presence. The results of the three studies will be presented with discussion of the potential context in which canine veliger detection may be useful.

Challenges With Stimulus Control in Lung Cancer Detection With Dogs

(Applied Research)
TIMOTHY EDWARDS (University of Waikato), Catherina Chang (Department of Respiratory Medicine, Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand ), Clare Browne (School of Science, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand ), Michael Jameson (University of Auckland, Waikato Clinical Campus, Hamilton, New Zealand)

Dogs have been trained for lung cancer detection, but the methods and results have varied widely. We aimed to clarify dogs’ capacity to detect lung cancer under operationally viable conditions. Using an automated apparatus, we trained dogs to indicate the presence of breath samples from individuals with lung cancer. We then conducted a blind test by interspersing samples of unknown status among samples with known status so that correct indications could be reinforced intermittently. Despite efforts to make blind samples indistinguishable from training samples, we observed a significant bias away from indicating blind samples as positive. We also observed a significant reduction in accuracy with both blind samples and training samples during the blind test. Following the blind test, we retrained the dogs and recovered the higher accuracy initially obtained. These findings raise some critical theoretical questions related to stimulus control. Notably, the findings suggest that highly complex discriminations are more likely to be disrupted by intermittent reinforcement than simple discriminations; they also suggest that alternative sources of stimulus control are more likely to emerge with complex discriminations. The findings also raise practical questions related to the clinical utility of dogs as detectors of cancer.




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