Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Behavior Management Needed--There Is No "Quick Fix" For Weight Loss

As the medical community searches for tools to treat the growing obesity epidemic, there is a place for "very low" calorie diets, medically defined as diets consisting of 800 calories per day or less. These diets can be prescribed for those who are obese and need to lose large amounts of weight. But they are undertaken under physician supervision, with regular blood tests, blood pressure screenings and EKGs, among other screenings. Further, the food on these regimens often is prescribed, too, to ensure that patients get adequate nutrition from the calories they consume. This is accompanied by coaching in behavior modification and long-term strategies for weight control so the pounds don't just return when the very low calorie diet ends. There's no quick fix in weight loss, and no miracle pill or injection that will erase the sensation of hunger. more

Personalized Data Input Portal and Online Patient Community To Combat Obesity

The abiliti® system is a novel implantable device that uses proprietary eating event sensors to initiate gastric stimulation that helps patients feel full sooner than they otherwise would. Additionally, the device automatically records information on those eating and drinking events, as well as frequency and duration of exercise. The my.abiliti portal is the only online destination and community that can utilize objective behavioral data, collected and stored by the abiliti device and wirelessly retrieved with the connect.abiliti Wand. This accurate information enables intelligent weight loss management based on routine self monitoring. more

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bilingual Babies And Behavioral Flexibility

In a new study, the researchers report that the brains of babies raised in bilingual households show a longer period of being flexible to different languages, especially if they hear a lot of language at home. The researchers also show that the relative amount of each language – English and Spanish – babies were exposed to affected their vocabulary as toddlers...[T]he researchers followed up with the parents when the babies were about 15 months old to see how many Spanish and English words the children knew. They found that early brain responses to language could predict infants' word learning ability. That is, the size of the bilingual children's vocabulary was associated with the strength of their brain responses in discriminating languages at 10-12 months of age. more

Think You're An Auditory Or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It's Unlikely

We've all heard the theory that some students are visual learners, while others are auditory learners. And still other kids learn best when lessons involve movement. And still other kids learn best when lessons involve movement. But should teachers target instruction based on perceptions of students' strengths?...Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, who studies how our brains learn, says teachers should not tailor instruction to different kinds of learners. He says we're on more equal footing than we may think when it comes to how our brains learn. more

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Close Encounters Of The Animal Kind

“We’re trying to give people who are interested in a zoo career the chance to come in and really see what it’s like to work at the zoo and work with the animals,” said Andre Copeland, interpretive programs manager...“Rhinos actually do have somewhat prehensile limbs, especially the black rhino, to aid them when they’re feeding on grasses,” Copeland said. “We may have the rhinos work with the trainers to hold the brush or we may have them do something with their feet, like finger painting.” Rhinos, like all the zoo’s animals, are taught new tricks with positive reinforcement. When the animals engage with trainers, they’re rewarded with something they like. If they don’t want to do the activity, trainers look for something else to do with the animal. more

Vaccines Are Safe, Hazards Few And Far Between

Vaccines do come with risks for trouble, but problems are generally rare, according to a new review of the evidence from the Institute of Medicine. The independent panel considered adverse effects from eight common childhood vaccines, and found that in many cases there wasn't enough evidence to if say there was a problem. But the committee came out loud and clear on the controversial question which drove the report. Do vaccines — such as the one against measles, mumps and rubella — cause autism? Nope. more

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Time Cells" May Bridge The Temporal Gap In Memory

Dr. Eichenbaum and colleagues developed an innovative task that required rats to distinguish sequences of two events that were separated by a time delay. The task required the rats to remember the initial event in order to respond appropriately to the second event and receive a reward. The researchers recorded hippocampal neural activity as the rats completed the tasks...The researchers observed that activity in the hippocampus robustly represented sequential memories and that certain cells became activated at successive moments during the empty gap that occurred between the two events. more

"Trial-And-Error" Learning And The Aging Brain

Canadian researchers have found the first evidence that older brains get more benefit than younger brains from learning information the hard way – via trial-and-error learning...In two separate studies, researchers compared the memory benefits of trial-and-error learning (TEL) with errorless learning (EL) in memory exercises with groups of healthy young and older adults...In both studies, participants remembered the learning context of the target words better if they had been learned through trial-and-error, relative to the errorless condition. more

Disney Teaches Gorillas To Be Perfect Patients

Then Dr. Stetter and his staff figured out a way to train Animal Kingdom’s gorillas to be still and cooperative during ultrasounds and blood pressure checks, a major advantage in helping pinpoint the state of their health. Now zoos across the country are following suit, using Disney’s guidelines and the Gorilla Health Project. Trainers used verbal cues, hand signals and treats, like fruit, as positive reinforcement to teach Gino how to turn around and display the appropriate body parts. more

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Driving: The Key To Cutting Gas Use?

"Driving behavior is going to be a part of that meaningful effort to reduce fuel use," O'Dell said. Many cars, such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf -- leaders in the hybrid and electric car markets, respectively -- already alert drivers to their good habits. A monitor in the Prius tells drivers how much fuel they are using and when the car is using electric power. The Leaf's console shows drivers an ever-growing digital tree, demonstrating to drivers how well they are doing at eco-driving. more

Gamification in Education: Should We Play?

Gamification does not necessarily involve the use of high technology. In fact, I've seen some very effective gamification that has been implemented using trading cards. A great example is the Teachers College at Columbia University, where they designed gamification for K-12 and higher education. Because many K-12 students don't have access to a computer, they implemented the whole gamification strategy based on "action cards." Gamification is certainly easier with the help of technology since it can help track a wider range of actions and interactions with a much higher fidelity than humans. However, the fundamental game mechanics and dynamics do not change -- they are all based on behavioral psychology, not technology. more

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Operant Conditioning to Achieve Voter Expectations

Operant conditioning is a term used to describe the idea that people can be trained by reward and punishment. So how do we use this concept to increase fiscal responsibility in Elgin? Because politicians make the rules, they must be trained to make good ones. Politicians care about reelection…a lot. Thus, the Elgin OCTAVE will reward the politicians that act responsibly with positive publicity and will punish (peacefully of course!) those with a disregard for your wallet by working to oust from office as swiftly as possible. more

Toy Psychology

Using virtual points and badges to shape our behavior may not be as effective as some have hoped. The intuitive idea is simple and appealing. Games are engaging, so making anything more gamelike should make it more engaging too. The scientific justification seems equally straightforward. Game mechanics invoke reinforcement learning; like B. F. Skinner's rats, we are repeatedly rewarded to produce the desired behavior. more

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Watson's "Is Thinking Merely Action of Language Mechanisms"

The British Journal of Psychology is making available selected classic articles from past issues.  One such article is John B. Watson's "Is Thinking Merely Action of Language Mechanisms" from 1920.  You can get a PDF of the article here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

ABAI 2012 Call for Papers

The 2012 Association for Behavior Analysis, International (ABAI) Annual Convention Call for Papers is now available online.

Behavioral Science Podcasts from SQAB

A series of podcasts are available from the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior (SQAB).  They cover topics ranging from evolution to radical behaviorism to chaos theory, and everything in between and around. more

Friday, August 19, 2011

Project Pigeon At The Smithsonian

It’s 1943, and America desperately needs a way to reliably bomb targets in Nazi Germany. What do we do? For B.F. Skinner, noted psychologist and inventor, the answer was obvious: pigeons. “During World War II, there was a grave concern about aiming missiles,” says Peggy Kidwell, a curator of Medicine and Science at the American History Museum. “Military officials really wanted to figure out how to aim them accurately,”  Skinner approached the National Research Defense Committee with his plan, code-named “Project Pigeon.” Members of the committee were doubtful, but granted Skinner $25,000 to get started. more

Robust Preschool Experience Offers Lasting Effects On Language

Preschool teachers' use of sophisticated vocabulary and analytic talk about books combined with early support for literacy in the home can predict fourth-grade reading comprehension and word recognition, new research from Vanderbilt University's Peabody College finds. The findings, published in Child Development and included in a review article in the August 19, 2011 edition of Science, present evidence that there are lasting, complex and mutually reinforcing effects that flow from strong early childhood classrooms. more

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Listening is (Covert) Speaking?

The brain has two big tasks related to speech: making it and understanding it. Psychologists and others who study the brain have debated whether these are really two separate tasks or whether they both use the same regions of the brain. Now, a new study, published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that speaking and understanding speech share the same parts of the brain, with one difference: we don't need the brain regions that control the movements of lips, teeth, and so on to understand speech. more

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

With practice, Foer argues, it’s possible for nearly anyone to bend back the “curve of forgetting” in one’s favor, a notion that begins the author’s quest to improve his own memory. The book is largely an account of Foer’s immersion in the world of competitive mnemonists, nearly all of whom claim to possess merely average memories. World Memory Champions, it turns out, aren’t sponges; they’re athletes, and they owe their prowess to training techniques that were once common knowledge... more

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Food Dudes Win SABA Award

A Bangor University scheme which which uses cartoon characters - the Food Dudes - to encourage healthy eating in primary schools has won international recognition. Professor Fergus Lowe and Dr Pauline Horne of Bangor University’s School of Psychology, are to receive the Scientific Translation Award (Technology Transfer) from the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis at their Annual Convention in Seattle in the USA in May 2012. more

Friday, August 12, 2011

The (Behavioral) Science Behind the Dublin Zoo

The zoo also links in with an international breeding programme for Sumatran tigers and positive reinforcement training has helped keep stress levels down, says Creighton. One cub, Wanita, had a problem with her heart and needed frequent monitoring, but because sedatives can alter blood flow she needed to be checked while awake, so Creighton worked with her to ease her into that situation. “I got her to recognise a target and when she touched it she got a piece of meat,” he recalls, describing how eventually she would stretch up high to touch the target, and her heart could be checked. “It’s a positive way of training them for what would be a stressful situation.” more

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Addicted to Tanning

“Using tanning beds has rewarding effects in the brain so people may feel compelled to persist in the behavior even though it’s bad for them,” said Dr. Bryon Adinoff, professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study available online and in a future print edition of Addiction Biology. “The implication is, ‘If it’s rewarding, then could it also be addictive?’ It’s an important question in the field.”  more

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Potty-Training Your Toddler: Is There a Right Way?

In 1973, Dr. Nathan Azrin and Dr. Richard Foxx prescribed a contrasting, parent-focused technique. The doctors also recommended beginning only when the child was psychologically and physiologically ready, then using a regimented, four-step process that includes a strategic increase of fluids, a bathroom schedule, positive reinforcement and strong correction of accidents.  more

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education

Carpenter, a serious-faced 10-year-old wearing a gray T-shirt and an impressive black digital watch, pauses for a second, fidgets, then clicks on “0 degrees.” Presto: The computer tells him that he’s correct. The software then generates another problem, followed by another, and yet another, until he’s nailed 10 in a row in just a few minutes. All told, he’s done an insane 642 inverse trig problems. “It took a while for me to get it,” he admits sheepishly...Initially, Thordarson thought Khan Academy would merely be a helpful supplement to her normal instruction. But it quickly become far more than that. She’s now on her way to “flipping” the way her class works. This involves replacing some of her lectures with Khan’s videos, which students can watch at home. Then, in class, they focus on working problem sets.  more

What Are the Limits of Canine Learning?

It is difficult to know exactly how much a dog can learn, and recent data keep pushing the limits beyond what we felt was possible before. Perhaps one breakthrough, in terms of our ability to assess the intelligence of dogs came about in the early 1990s. At that time it dawned upon me that one way to learn about the limits of canine abilities was to use tests that were already developed for assessing human infants, and to modify them so that they could be used for dogs. The idea was that if a dog could pass a particular test, then not only would he have clearly demonstrated that he has the fact particular mental ability, but it might be possible to assign a human mental age to his performance, which might give us a better understanding of the dog's mental capacity. A number of canine behavioral researchers ultimately adopted the same strategy.  more

Monday, August 08, 2011

Nalmefene Reduces Alcohol Use in Phase III Trial

Preliminary results from a Phase III clinical trial of nalmefene in individuals with alcohol addiction have shown that this opioid receptor antagonist reduces alcohol consumption...Although the mechanism of action of nalmefene is not novel, compared to other opioid receptor antagonists it has a longer half-life and displays partial agonist activity at κ-opioid receptors; these differences could account for the beneficial effects of nalmefene over existing opioid receptor antagonists. Opioid receptor antagonists block the rewarding effects of alcohol, which are driven by positive reinforcement processes in the brain. more

Program Rewards Riders Practicing Bicycle Safety

“Caught You Being Safe,” a new campaign promoting bicycle safety in the township, will seek to reward bicycle riders “caught” wearing their helmet. more

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Joseph V. Brady Dies

Joseph Vincent Brady, a nationally and internationally known behavioral neuroscientist, behavioral pharmacologist and space researcher who established the department of behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, died Friday of multiple organ failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. Brady has been called the "Father of Behavioral Pharmacology," he also trained first primates, or Astrochimps, that traveled into space. more

Check out Behavior Analysis at APA 2011-Washington, DC

The 119th Convention of the American Psychological Association is about to commence. Among the APA divisions that advance psychology as a natural science, Division 25, the Division of Behavior Analysis, is perhaps unique in its emphasis on behavior as a subject matter in its own right. Check out the happenings of Division 25 (Behavior Analysis)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Automated Vision System Speeds Behavioral Analysis Research

At the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology (Boston, MA, USA), Dr. Michael Levin and his colleagues are using quantitative automated behavioral analysis techniques to study living animals....In the design of the chamber, 12 cells are arranged in a grid, each of which houses a disposable Petri dish in which the worm is placed (see figure at top). Each individual cell is illuminated by a set of four visible LEDs that are used to illuminate a single quadrant of each dish. In a typical experiment, worms are trained to stay in, or avoid, specific parts of the dish or to move at specific rates. Worms that successfully perform the task will be rewarded by lowered light levels since worms inherently prefer the dark. more

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Drivers Stop Cars Just By "Thinking" About It

In a fast-moving car, the brain can hit the brakes faster than the foot. By relying on brain waves that signal the intent to jam on the brakes, a new technology could shave critical milliseconds off the reaction time, researchers report online July 28 in the Journal of Neural Engineering. more

Monday, August 01, 2011

Social Deficits Associated With Autism, Schizophrenia Induced in Mice

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have been able to switch on, and then switch off, social-behavior deficits in mice that resemble those seen in people with autism and schizophrenia, thanks to a technology that allows scientists to precisely manipulate nerve activity in the brain. more

Latest Issue Of The Journal Behavior Modification Is Now Available

The latest issue of the journal Behavior Modification is now available. Behavior Modification presents insightful research, reports, and reviews on applied behavior modification. Each issue offers successful assessment and modification techniques applicable to problems in psychiatric, clinical, educational, and rehabilitative settings, as well as treatment manuals and program descriptions. Practical features help you follow the process of clinical psychological research and to apply it to behavior modification interventions. more