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 #162
Incorporating Closed-Loop Tracking Systems in Experimental Analysis of Behavior (EAB) Research: Contingent Schedules on Traveled Distance, Motivating Operations (MOs), and Social Behavior
Sunday, May 28, 2023
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom B
Area: EAB/AAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Varsovia Hernandez Eslava (Universidad Veracruzana)

From Skinner’s seminal definition of behavior as “(…) movement of the organism or of its parts in a frame of reference provided by the organism itself or by various external objects or fields of force.” it was clear that movement, or displacement in space, was at the core of the characterization of behavior. Several years ago, due to the state of the technology (and its cost), it was not possible to track the real-time movement of experimental subjects in EAB research. Nonetheless, recent advancements in technology have made it possible to incorporate real-time tracking of animal movement, opening new possibilities. One of these possibilities is that now, the effect of well-known schedules (based on counting discrete responses) on the spatial dimension of behavior can be studied. A second possibility is the development of schedules of reinforcement in which relevant events are presented according to animal traveled distance in the experimental space. In the current symposium, we will describe three studies that incorporated the spatial dimension of behavior in the previously mentioned ways. All studies were conducted with Wistar rats as subjects. Study 1 analyzed the effect on different dimensions of the spatial behavior of Fixed and Variable Displacement schedules contingent on the fulfillment of traveled distance criteria in an extended experimental chamber. Study 2 analyzed the effects of motivational operations on animals' behavior using Fixed schedules contingent on traveled distance. Study 3 analyzed the emergence of conspecific spatial interactions under concurrent FT and VT schedules. Distance traveled, routes, distance to the dispensers or conspecifics, time spent in zones, recurrence patterns, and entropy, among other measures were obtained. The implications of the proposed approach for the study of behavior will be described.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): closed-loops systems, rats, reinforcement schedules, spatial dynamics

Reinforcement Schedules Based on Traveled Distance and Spatial Behavior Dynamics

ALEJANDRO LEON (University of Veracruz), Varsovia Hernandez Eslava (Universidad Veracruzana), Joao Santibáñez (Universidad Veracruzana, Comparative Psychology Lab), Isiris Guzmán (Universidad Veracruzana, Comparative Psychology Lab), Abraham Rivera (Universidad Veracruzana, Comparative Psychology lab)

Usually, reinforcement schedules are based on a given discrete response (e.g., lever presses). To our knowledge, works that use a Spatio-temporal continuous activity as a reinforcement criterion are scarce. Nevertheless, in natural settings, the organism’s continuous activity (i.e., animal movement) is a ubiquitous feature of behavior that is not only shaped by the contingencies of the environment, but many times it is the criterion for reinforcement (e.g., an organism traveling a given distance is followed by reaching water or food). In some situations, the traveled distance could be regular (e.g., in spatially fixed renewable resources). In others, it could be variable (e.g., in spatially dynamic resources). The present work analyzed the spatial behavior dynamics under two reinforcement schedules of water delivery based on traveled distance in Wistar rats: Fixed Distance 100cm (FD100cm) and Variable Distance 100cm (VD100cm). Six subjects were randomly assigned to one of two contra-balanced sequences (FD-VD and VD-FD). Multidimensional behavior analysis was conducted using water produced rate, contacted water index, trajectories, velocity, spatial recurrence, and location entropy variables. The potential relevance of reinforcement schedules based on traveled distance and its associated behavior dynamics are discussed.


Interaction Between Motivational Effects of Water Deprivation and Stimuli Functions in Locomotor Activity in Rats

VICTOR QUINTERO RODRIGUEZ (Universidad Veracruzana), Varsovia Hernandez Eslava (Universidad Veracruzana), Alejandro Leon (University of Veracruz)

A widely reported effect of water deprivation in rats is its relationship to increased levels of locomotor activity. However, there are several questions about the nature of this relationship, for example, is it a direct effect of deprivation conditions or is it mediated by an increased tendency to respond to stimuli presented during deprivation periods? Furthermore, does the locomotor activity during deprivation change according to the kind of stimuli presented (conditional or unconditional to water deliveries)? What kind of functions do these stimuli have? To analyze this, nine Wistar rats were exposed to different levels of water deprivation (low, medium, high, and no deprivation) and were tested in an open field using a contingent schedule on displacement. In Phase 1 a neutral tone was presented each time the rat traveled 150 cm (Group 1) or independently of its movement (Group 2). Phase 2 consisted of pairings between the tone and water delivery. Phase 3 was a replication of Phase 1 but, presented the stimulus previously paired with water delivery. Results suggest that the level of water deprivation is not directly related to increases in locomotor activity, but rather that the magnitude of changes in locomotor activity depends on the presentation of the tone, previously related to water delivery, whether contingent or not on locomotor activity. The results are discussed in terms of the different functions of stimuli and how they interact with water deprivation to control changes in locomotor activity.


Analyzing the Emergence of Spatial Interactions in Conspecifics Under Concurrent Fixed-Time (FT) and Variable-Time (VT) Schedules

FRYDA ABRIL DIAZ (Universidad Veracruzana, Comparative Psychology Lab), Varsovia Hernandez Eslava (Universidad Veracruzana), Alejandro Leon (University of Veracruz)

The operant analysis of the interaction between conspecifics has focused on establishing a pattern of behavior that involves two organisms, by using contingent deliveries of reinforcement to that previously determined pattern (e.g., lever presses sequences), and measuring its rate or occurrence. Nevertheless, to our knowledge, there are no studies about the emergence of interindividual interaction patterns in rats that have considered the spatial dimension of behavior in situations in which the delivery of reinforcement is independent of the behavior of the subjects. The purpose of this work was to study the emergence of spatial interactions in conspecifics under FT and VT schedules of water delivery. Subjects were 14 male Wistar rats assigned in dyads to one of three groups: FT30s, VT 30s, and Control. An A-B-A design was used to evaluate the effect of each schedule. We found that with the FT schedule routes of displacement were more variable, with shorter time spent on each dispenser and with higher distances between conspecifics, in comparison to VT schedules. We discuss the emergence of different spatial interaction patterns depending on the schedules of reinforcement and how these results can inform the decision for choosing a more ecologically relevant pattern of behavior as the criterion of reinforcement in studies about social behavior.




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