Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Probing Pooch Paw Preferences

Dogs were used to elaborate two instrumental reactions flexing the left or right forepaw respectively to pull a dish of food within reach of its mouth. If both paws were simultaneously fixed to levers, dog was faced with a choice between two reactions. In preliminary trials right paw preference was strong despite equal effectiveness of the left paw in obtaining the food. The aim of the experiment was to alter this right paw preference by forcing the use of the left paw. more

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Unusual Flavors Can Dampen Immune Response

More than 100 years ago Ivan Pavlov famously observed that a dog salivated not only when fed but also on hearing a stimulus it associated with food. Since then, scientists have discovered many other seemingly autonomous processes that can be trained with sensory stimuli—including, most recently, our immune system. more

Monday, February 27, 2012

Beware of the Dogs

A good dog is a natural super soldier: strong yet acrobatic, fierce yet obedient. It can leap higher than most men and run twice as fast. Its eyes are equipped for night vision, its ears for supersonic hearing, its mouth for subduing the most fractious prey. But its true glory is its nose. In the nineteen-seventies, researchers found that dogs could detect even a few particles per million of a substance; in the nineties, more subtle instruments lowered the threshold to particles per billion; the most recent tests have brought it down to particles per trillion. “It’s a little disheartening, really,” said Paul Waggoner, a behavioral scientist at the Canine Detection Research Institute, at Auburn University. “I spent a good six years of my life chasing this idea, only to find that it was all about the limitations of my equipment.” Just as astonishing, to Waggoner, is a dog’s acuity—the way it can isolate and identify compounds within a scent, like the spices in a soup. more

Friday, February 24, 2012

Treating Fear, Anxiety, and PTSD

[S]omeone who's afraid of dogs can often be helped by treatment where they're given limited exposure to dogs, showing them that dogs really aren't so frightening after all. Psychologists call this fear extinction therapy...In the study, adult mice were trained to fear a tone by repeatedly giving them a foot shock right after the tone was produced. After two weeks of this, some of the mice were given fear extinction therapy -- repeated exposure to the tone without an accompanying foot shock, while others were not. And half of the mice had their drinking water replaced by a Prozac solution...The mice were then tested at various time periods to see how the behavioral therapy and the drug therapy, alone and in combination, affected their fear of the tone, by looking at whether or not the mice froze when they heard the tone. more

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hazing Coyotes?

Aversion conditioning, or hazing, is the keystone to many successful coyote management plans. But what exactly is hazing? "Hazing is a non-lethal wildlife management tool that attempts to teach wildlife that humans are dangerous," explained Dr. Camilla Fox, Executive Director of Project Coyote...Hazing has proven successful in many communities because of what it addresses: unintentional positive reinforcement of behaviour. more

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Brain Connections Form in Clusters During Learning

New connections between brain cells emerge in clusters in the brain as animals learn to perform a new task, according to a study published in Nature...The researchers studied mice as they learned new behaviors, such as reaching through a slot to get a seed. They observed changes in the motor cortex, the brain layer that controls muscle movements, during the learning process. Specifically, they followed the growth of new "dendritic spines," structures that form the connections (synapses) between nerve cells. more

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Babies "Catch Words" Early?

In the study, 33 infants ages 6 to 9 months and 50 kids ages 10 to 20 months sat on their mothers’ laps in front of a computer connected to an eye-tracking device. Even at 6 months, babies looked substantially longer, on average, at images of various foods and body parts named by their mothers when those items appeared with other objects. Kids as young as 6 months, for example, looked longer at a picture of hair paired with a picture of a banana when their mothers said “Look at the hair,” relative to time spent looking at a hair image when their mothers said “Look at the banana.” Infants also homed in on the nose on a woman’s face after their mothers said “Do you see the nose?” more

Monday, February 20, 2012

Twitter Study Looks for Most Effective Ways to Share Info

[R]esearchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Georgia Institute of Technology recently published a study designed to understand the different reactions spurred by Twitter updates...André said that the question that ignited this research was the following: There are many mechanisms of positive reinforcement, such as favoring tweets, “like” buttons on Facebook, or “+1” on Google, but what would a “dislike” button tell us? There is an accepted practice of online social interaction, as Carnegie Mellon computer science Ph.D. student Rob Simmons confirmed, but the norms are not clear to everyone. more

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Latest Issue of Behavior Modification Now Available

The latest issue of the journal Behavior Modification is now available online. Behavior Modification (BMO) 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.

Latest Issue of Behavioral Interventions Now Available

The latest issue of the journal Behavioral Interventions is now available. Behavioral Interventions aims to report research and practice involving the utilization of behavioral techniques in the treatment, education, assessment and training of students, clients or patients, as well as training techniques used with staff. Behavioral Interventions publishes: (1) research articles, (2) brief reports (a short report of an innovative technique or intervention that may be less rigorous than a research report), (3) topical literature reviews and discussion articles, (4) book reviews.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why We Like What We Like

We can discriminate dog food and paté, red wine and white, holding hands with someone we love and holding hands with a stranger. But what we are discriminating, when we do this, is not neural events in the mouth or hand, but what we are doing. And when the wine expert, or the lover, describes what matters in the flavor, or the caress, he or she is not identifying marks or features of the intrinsic qualities in the nervous system that only the expert of the lover can discern; taste is not a kind of measurement. Rather, the expert is calling attention to features of the flavor and the action that are precisely there for us to think about and pay attention to. more

Monday, February 13, 2012

Behaviour Game Produces Positive Classroom Results

A game for young students being played in Winnipeg schools is reducing disruptive behaviour, and it may go a long way in preventing mental illness later in life, CBC's Nahlah Ayed reports. The game, which mixes competion and positive reinforcement, is meant to help students develop self-control. Teachers say they've seen big changes since the game was introduced to schools in a pilot project in September. more

Friday, February 10, 2012

A From a Book about the Future to the Neural Underpinnings of the Past

Hebb’s work has since been expanded on, refined, and modified, but the general principle remains the same: training matters when it comes to how we learn and what we remember. Habit is king. Hebb’s postulate explains much of the logic behind such phenomena as Pavlovian conditioning (bell plus food equals salivation; fast forward to bell alone equals salivation), Skinnerian conditioning (pull lever, get pellet, learn to pull lever for pellet), fear conditioning and desensitization (think James Watson and poor Little Albert, or James Ledoux and scary snakes), and visual learning (Hubel and Wiesel and monocular deprivation in cats—no visual stimulus during the critical period makes for blind felines). Of course, it’s far more complicated than a single postulate, but the basic process is all about how our brains are trained, by our external and internal environment both, to respond to various situations in a predictable fashion. more

Latest Issue of Inside Behavior Analysis Newsletter Now Available

The latest issue of Inside Behavior Analysis is now available online from the Association for Behavior Analysis, International (ABAI). The Association publishes three newsletters annually to inform ABAI members of news and events. Newsletter editions typically feature updates from the ABAI leadership, a focused topic of interest to the membership, upcoming events, and updates from chapters, SIGs, and other behavioral organizations.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A Mobile Device to Prevent and Treat Drug Use?

Imagine a device combining sensors to measure physiological changes. Then imagine a smartphone with software applications designed to respond to your bodily changes in an attempt to change your behavior. That is the vision behind "iHeal," currently being developed by Edward Boyer from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the US, and his colleagues. The multimedia device is an innovative combination of 'enabling technologies' which can detect developing drug cravings and intervene as the cravings develop to prevent drug use...When the software detects an increased stress or arousal level, it asks the user to annotate events by inputting information about their perceived level of stress, drug cravings, and current activities. iHeal's ultimate goal is to identify, in real-time, drug cravings and deliver personalized, multimedia drug prevention interventions precisely at the moment of greatest need. more

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

When Life is a Bunch of Carrots

When the government offers tax deductions for charitable donations, when a soup kitchen feeds the homeless on the condition that they attend church, or when the writer of a will attaches stipulations to a bequest — all these situations involve incentives. Dr. Ruth W. Grant, a political science and philosophy professor and senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, says we tend to view such incentives as some form of voluntary trade. In fact, she says, they often indicate an imbalance of power, and thus raise ethical issues. more

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

School-Wide Token Economy Encourages Good Beahvior, Discourages Bad

"We try to have more positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement," Auld explains, "so when students are caught in the act of being positive, like encouraging a friend outside or picking up garbage, we recognize them on the spot." This recognition is received through slips of paper called 'gotchas.' Gotchas had originally been handed to students privately, but when Auld became principal four years ago she wanted these acknowledgements to be more public so she created the 'Celebrate Us' assemblies...There is also a negative component to the effective behaviour system to hinder bullying at the school. Opposite to gotchas, 'remembrance slips' are given to students who are seen misbehaving. School staff collects these slips and if a student accumulates three, a detention or other stricter punishment is given. more

Monday, February 06, 2012

Making Sense of Sensory Connections: Researchers Identify Mechanism Behind "Associative Memory"

When a person encounters a favorite food or the perfume of a loved one, she will typically experience a recall, usually positive, based on the memories evoked by those smells. Such a recall -- to a smell, sound, taste, or any other sensory stimulus -- is evidence of "associative" learning, says Gilles Laurent, a former professor of biology at Caltech and senior author of the study, as learning often means assigning a value, such as beneficial or not, to inputs that were until then neutral. The original, neutral stimulus acquires significance as a result of being paired, or associated, with a reinforcing reward or punishment -- in this case, the pleasant emotion recalled by a smell. "When we learn that a particular sensory stimulus predicts a reward, there is general agreement that this knowledge is stored by changing the connections between particular neurons," explains Cassenaer. more

Friday, February 03, 2012

Science Decodes "Internal Voices"

Researchers have demonstrated a striking method to reconstruct words, based on the brain waves of patients thinking of those words. The technique reported in PLoS Biology relies on gathering electrical signals directly from patients' brains. Based on signals from listening patients, a computer model was used to reconstruct the sounds of words that patients were thinking of. The method may in future help comatose and locked-in patients communicate. more

The Latest Issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Now Available

The latest issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior is now available. The Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior is a psychology journal primarily for the original publication of experiments relevant to the behavior of individual organisms.

The Latest Issue of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis Now Available

The latest issue of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is now available. The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is a psychology journal that publishes research about applications of the experimental analysis of behavior to problems of social importance.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Insurers Use Rewards To Make Customers Safer, Cheaper

Just as credit card companies offer rewards points to encourage more shopping, insurers offer incentives to foster safer habits — for your benefit and theirs. Call it positive reinforcement via positive reimbursement. UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Progressive (PGR) and Allstate (ALL) are among the companies offering incentives in exchange for certain types of actions and behavior...The idea is that safer or healthier people cost less money, and insurers are choosing to reward good behavior rather than punish bad behavior. more

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Latest Issue of "The Current Repertoire" Now Available Online

The latest issue of The Current Repertoire (Vol 28, #1, Winter 2012) is now available at the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies website. The Current Repertoire is the newsletter of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and is published 3 times per year.

Colour Has an Influence on the Sense of Smell

...I wasn't at all surprised to recently read a report on the book Neurogastronomy by Gordon Shepherd, who writes about a series of experiments which showed that "Colour has an influence on the sense of smell". Since physiologically what we call taste is in large part really a product of smell the reason you can't taste things when you have a cold if colour affects smell, then it also affects our perception of taste, something which, Gordon says, some psychologists regard as a kind of Pavlovian conditioning. more