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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #160
CE Offered: BACB
CANCELED: Gene-brain Behavior Relations in Applied Behavior Analysis
Sunday, May 27, 2012
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
LL04 (TCC)
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Javier Virues Ortega (University of Manitoba)
Discussant: David Wayne Schaal (Accuray Incorporated)
CE Instructor: Javier Virues Ortega, Ph.D.

Applied behavior-analytic interventions have been rarely implemented concurrently with neurophysiological dependent variables in genetic syndromes. This approach may help to identify learning-dependent plasticity mechanisms mobilized by treatment procedures, or to isolate patterns of neurophysiological activity that are specific to operant processes. From a conceptual standpoint, behavior analysis may be a more suitable interphase between socially significant behavior and neuroscientific research (as opposed to cognitive psychology) owed to its parsimony, focus on observable responses and use of experimental methods. Behavioral methods may also be useful to establish disease-specific behavioral characteristics of genetic syndromes. Finally, cross-disciplinary applied research may impact favorably the biological plausibility and facial validity of behavior-analytic interventions to broader scientific audiences. During this symposium authors will present a series of empirical studies illustrating the potential of applied behavior analysis to inform gene-brain-behavior relations. Virues-Ortega et al. will describe a study on the neurophysiological correlates of behavioral acquisition in autism. Hammond et al. will present a study examining the environmental factors and neurophysiological correlates of problem behavior in Prader-Willi syndrome. Finally, Caruso-Anderson et al. will discuss a study on the distinctive behavioral characteristics of individuals with autism and Fragile X syndrome in terms of their preference toward social stimuli. Dr. Schaal, one of the few behavior analysts that have develop a research career in the field of neuroscience, will serve as discussant.

Keyword(s): Autism, Gene-brain-behavior relations, Neuroimaging

Modeling Behavioral Acquisition Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

JAVIER VIRUES ORTEGA (University of Manitoba), Flavia Julio (University of Manitoba), Toby L. Martin (St. Amant Research Centre, University of Manitoba), Mary Caruso-Anderson (University of Manitoba), Kylee Hurl (University of Manitoba)

Recent studies have examined the neurocircuitry recruitment of reinforced behavior during maintenance using fMRI with children with autism. However, there is a dearth of fMRI studies in autism addressing brain plasticity in relation to behavioral acquisition. This approach may help to identify early courses of the intervention and learning-dependent plasticity mechanisms underlying the effects of treatment. In the present study we focused on the acquisition of generalized motor imitation (GMM) through applied operant procedures. Several factors make generalized imitation an interesting repertoire from a neurophysiological perspective: (1) imitation has been associated with the mirror neuron system, a key component of differential neurophysiological functioning in autism; (2) there are effective fMRI control tasks for imitation available in the literature; and (3) fMRI studies have identified altered brain activation in untrained individuals with autism when confronted with imitative tasks. Participants underwent a multiple exemplar procedure in order to perform GMM at a mastery level. fMRI scans were conducted before an after the GMM procedure was implemented. Control tasks during the scanning procedure allowed to tear out brain activity associated with the motor, perceptual, and simple imitation components of the target task.


Skin Picking in Prader-Willi Syndrome: A Gene-Brain-Behavior Investigation

JENNIFER LYNN HAMMOND (Stanford University), Scott S. Hall (Stanford University), Kristin M. Hustyi (Stanford University), Allan L. Reiss (Stanford University)

Approximately 60% to 80% of individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) engage in self-injurious behavior typically in the form of skin picking a prevalence rate that is considerably higher than that reported in the general developmental disability population. Our understanding of the factors that give rise to and maintain skin picking in this population, however, is extremely limited. In this study, we used functional analysis and brain imaging methodology (fMRI: subtraction method) to identify the potential environmental and biological variables maintaining skin picking in 10 individuals diagnosed with PWS. Results showed that (a) PWS participants exhibited increased rates of skin picking under non social conditions of the functional analysis; (b) physiological activity (pulse and respiration) recorded in the scanner was correlated with skin-picking episodes; and (c) participants with PWS showed atypical brain activation in the pain-reward network during skin-picking episodes. Taken together, this study provides one of the first interdisciplinary accounts combining techniques common to applied behavior analysis and neuroscience of the conditions under which skin picking occurs in PWS, as well as delineating the specific mechanisms involved in this highly prevalent phenotypic disorder.


Preference for Social Stimuli in Children With Autism and Fragile X Syndrome

MARY CARUSO-ANDERSON (University of Manitoba), Daina Crafa (Universitat Osnabruk), Kylee Hurl (University of Manitoba), Javier Virues Ortega (University of Manitoba)

Behavior-analytic methods are rarely use to identify disease-specific behavioral characteristics of genetic syndromes. In this study we examine the preference toward social stimuli of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and Fragile X syndrome (FXS). Despite the presence of social withdrawal behavior and debilitating deficits in social interaction skills, no studies have examined preferences for social interaction in these populations. The purpose of this study was to determine relative preference for social interaction by the amount of time children with ASD and FXS and their typically developing peers allocated to social and non-social stimuli when both were available simultaneously. A brief preference assessment was conducted to identify preferred toys. The experimental room was divided into three areas. In one area, preferred toys were available for solitary play. In a second area, the same toys were available and an experimenter provided social interaction. The third area was a control condition and contained neither social stimuli nor toys. At the beginning of each trial, participants sampled the contingency in effect in each area and were told they could change areas freely. Results will be discussed in terms of amount of time allocated to social versus non-social conditions.




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