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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #29
CE Offered: BACB
Operant Conditioning in Invertebrates
Saturday, May 24, 2014
1:00 PM–2:50 PM
W176c (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Chris Varnon (Oklahoma State University)
Discussant: Susan M. Schneider (University of the Pacific)
CE Instructor: Jacob H. Daar, M.S.

Although behaviorists often seek to generalize the principles of behavior to a diverse range of species, invertebrates seldom receive much attention in behavioral research. This is unfortunate as invertebrates are excellent candidates for research in behavior analysis for several reasons. First, invertebrate research is often less expensive and less restrictive in methods than research conducted with traditional vertebrate organisms. Second, invertebrates are practical subjects for classroom experiments and hands-on student exercises due to small size, low cost and low maintenance. Finally, many species, such as the honey bee, have significant roles in agriculture and the ecosystem. In this symposium, four presentations will discuss operant conditioning in invertebrates. The research will discuss the sensitivity of honey bees to delays of reinforcement, distinctions in drone and worker honey bee performance in avoidance and punishment tasks, spatial learning in lobsters and positive reinforcement in hissing cockroaches. The presentations will relate the findings to the behavioral ecology of the subject species, and compare and contrast the trends in invertebrate learning with what is commonly observed in traditional vertebrate organisms.

Keyword(s): Bee, Invertebrate, Lobster, Roach

The Impact of Reinforcement Delays on Honey Bee (Apis mellifera L.) Operant Responding

DAVID CRAIG (Oklahoma State University), James W. Grice (Oklahoma State University), Chris Varnon (Oklahoma State University), Michel Sokolowski (Universite de Picardie - Jules Vernes), Charles I. Abramson (Oklahoma State University)

In two experiments, free-flying honey bees' (Apis mellifera L.) hole-entering responses in an artificial flower apparatus were exposed to two forms of reinforcement delays. The first experiment implemented a post-reinforcement delay by locking the bees within the apparatus and preventing them from returning to the hive after receiving sucrose reinforcement. The bees received either a 0s, 300s, or 600s delay following an A-B-C-A design. The delay produced distinct patterns of inter-session intervals but did not impact inter-response times. Generally, longer delays produced longer inter-session intervals and many bees exposed to post-reinforcement delays "dropped out" of the experiment. The second experiment implemented an inter-reinforcement delay via a fixed interval schedule of reinforcement of either 0s, 15s, 30s, 60s, or 120s. The FI schedules produced lower response rates compared to performance on continuous reinforcement schedules and also decreased inter-response-times for some subjects. However, no "scalloped" or "break-and-run" patterns of responding were observed, and no evidence of temporal control by honey bees was produced. As with the first experiment, honey bees exposed to longer delays (FI 60s and F1 120s) "dropped out" of the experiment.


Aversive Conditioning in Honey bees (Apis mellifera anatolica): A Comparison of Drones and Workers

CHRISTOPHER DINGES (Oklahoma State University), Charles I. Abramson (Oklahoma State University), David Craig (Oklahoma State University), Zoe M. Austin (Oklahoma State University), Chris Varnon (Oklahoma State University), Fatima Nur Dal (Beekeeping Research Centre, Uludag University), Tugrul Giray (Beekeeping Research Centre, Uludag University), Harrington Wells (University of Tulsa)

Honey bees provide a model system to elucidate the relationship between sociality and complex behaviors within the same species, as females (workers) are highly social and males (drones) are more solitary. We report on aversive learning studies in drone and worker honey bees (Apis mellifera anatolica) in escape, punishment and discriminative punishment situations. In the escape experiment, individuals could terminate an unavoidable shock triggered by a decrementing 30-second timer by crossing the shuttlebox centerline following shock activation. Across all groups, there was large individual response variation. When assessing group response frequency and latency, master subjects performed better than yoked subjects for both workers and drones. In the punishment experiment, individuals were shocked upon entering the shock portion of a bilaterally wired shuttlebox. The shock portion was spatially static and unsignalled. Only workers effectively avoided the shock. The discriminative punishment experiment repeated the punishment experiment but included a counterbalanced blue and yellow background signal and the side of shock was manipulated. Drones correctly responded less than workers when shock was paired with blue. However, when shock was paired with yellow there was no observable difference between drones and workers.


Positive Reinforcement and Extinction in the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

Matthew L. Johnson (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Jacob H. Daar (Southern Illinois University), ASHLEY SHAYTER (Southern Illinois University), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)

While numerous demonstrations of behavioral principles have been observed in a variety of model organisms, few studies have attempted to replicate such phenomenon using the relatively cheaper and regulation free options available in invertebrate organisms. The following study sought to demonstrate positive reinforcement in the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) by exposing 5 subjects to an apparatus that provided highly preferred edible stimuli as a consequent of antennae waving on a FR1 schedule. In order to account for the presence of motivating operations, each subject was exposed to a 5min free-operant preference assessment including 4 edible stimuli prior to each session. After selection of a stimulus, the subjects were placed in the apparatus for 20min. If no stimulus was selected, the subject was returned to the colony enclosure. An ABAB design showed greater frequencies of antennae waving during FR1 (B) conditions than in baseline (A) conditions. Patterns suggesting delayed extinction bursts were observed during the return to baseline. Implications and limitations of these methodologies and in the use of hissing cockroaches as model organisms are discussed.


Spatial Learning in the Lobster

KELTI OWENS (Southern Illinois University), Anna Cronin (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Rachel Enoch (Southern Illinois University), Maggie Molony (Southern Illinois University), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)

The present study examined spatial learning patterns in juvenile Red-Clawed lobsters (Cherax Quadricarinatus). In the present study a group of 14 Red-Clawed lobsters were trained to run through a T-maze; the number of errors and latency to complete the maze was measured. The experimental group was exposed to daily trial blocks, which consisted of 3 sessions per day, whereas the control group was exposed to the task on day 1 and day 12. Results suggest that after repeated exposure to the task, the experimental group maintained an average of 100% maze completion during the last trial block, making no errors. The control group however had an average of 52% during the last trial block. After the responding pattern in the maze was reversed, the experimental group averaged 743.75s to complete the maze compared to the control group completing the maze in 273.5s. The results suggest that a stronger learning history effects adaptability in responding with the experimental group being less adaptable in their responding after repeated exposure to the maze task.




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