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 #28
CE Offered: BACB
Experimental Behavior Analysis of Auditory Discrimination in Humans with Neurodevelopment Disabilities and Related Animal Models
Saturday, May 24, 2014
1:00 PM–2:50 PM
W176a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: John C. Neill (Long Island University)
Discussant: James S. MacDonall (Fordham University)
CE Instructor: John C. Neill, Ph.D.

Effective new techniques are needed to assess auditory discrimination in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy and intellectual disability. This symposium will present effective behavioral methods for assessing a variety of auditory discriminations in humans and animal models. John C. Neill (Long Island University) will show how seizures early in life predispose mammals to long term and acute impairments in auditory location and quality discrimination, and how these impairments can be remediated using effective auditory discrimination procedures developed in basic research. Neill will also present a paper that shows significant dose-dependent deficits in auditory discrimination in rats exposed to cosmic rays, similar impairments in neonatal seizure models, and discuss the implications for the developing brain. Bertram Ploog (College of Staten Island, CUNY) will discuss studies using a computer game to assess stimulus control involved in receptive prosody of children with autism (including lower functioning children) also with potential for remediation. Richard Serna, (U. Mass. Lowell) will describe non-verbal methods used to assess pitch discrimination in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Data will be presented from an ongoing research project aimed at better understanding the auditory discrimination capabilities of children with ASDs and intellectual disabilities. Behavior analysts will learn some determinants of atypical behavior associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities and potentially effective remediation approaches to normalize auditory perception. A discussant, James MacDonall (Fordham University) will add insightful commentary.

Keyword(s): auditory discrimination, autism, intellectual disability, prosody
Seizures Impair Auditory Discrimination in Mammals
JOHN C. NEILL (Long Island University)
Abstract: One third of individuals with severe developmental disabilities have active seizure disorders which cause impaired learning and behavior. A higher proportion of developmentally disabled individuals probably had seizures early in development. This paper will present experimental analysis of several animal models of seizure-induced auditory behavioral impairments, using go-no go and go right-go left auditory discrimination methods and maze data. Mammals with seizures early in development are impaired in go - no go and go right - go left auditory discrimination. Normal animals and humans learn auditory discriminations rapidly when a novel sound is presented, and sound source location rapidly acquires stimulus control; severely disabled seizure animals and epileptic humans acquire sound localization poorly or not at all unless special procedures are used. Maze data show that seizure animals are less likely to explore the environment and their behavior is highly avoidance-based, particularly in response to novel sounds. Seizure animals acquire less reinforcers and thus become ontologically retarded compared to normal controls unless they receive early intensive behavioral intervention. Seizure rats acquire auditory discriminations at better than 90% accuracy using a simultaneous quality-location discrimination. Humans with severe epilepsy and intellectual disabilities acquire discriminations above 90% accuracy using analog discrimination procedures.
Assessing Pitch Discrimination in Children with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities
RICHARD W. SERNA (University of Massachusetts Lowell)
Abstract: Many children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, particularly those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), show limited and impaired auditory learning skills. One reason for these impairments may be that spoken words contain many auditory features that distinguish them, including pitch, duration, rise and fall, rhythm, etc. Children with ASDs may show selective attention to only a single auditory feature of a word, the results of which could interfere with spoken-word learning. Though some research exists in this area, most of it has been conducted with “high functioning,” verbal children with ASDs. Almost no research in this area exists with children with ASDs who have more pronounced intellectual disabilities. The purpose of this paper is to describe non-verbal methods used to assess pitch discrimination in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Initial data also will be presented from an ongoing research project aimed at better understanding the auditory discrimination capabilities of children with both ASDs and intellectual disabilities. Preliminary results suggest a key finding could emerge: Children with ASDs who have intellectual disabilities tend to be better able to discriminate pitch than their counterparts who have intellectual disabilities, but no ASDs.

Using a Computer Game to Assess Auditory Stimulus Control in Children with Autism

BERTRAM O. PLOOG (City University of New York), Patricia Brooks (City University of New York)

The use of computer technology has been prevalent in autism research and treatment. However, many studies have not employed a systematic and rigorous behavior analytical approach, therefore proper assessment of treatment efficacy is often lacking. In this talk, I'd like to discuss the findings of three studies using a computer game to assess stimulus control involved in receptive prosody of children with autism (including lower functioning children who represent an understudied and underserved population in language research). I would also like to introduce a new game to assess stimulus control involved in emotion recognition of children with autism. This game also has the built-in potential to serve as a remedial tool for atypical attention possibly involved in emotion recognition.


Cosmic Rays are Neurotoxic

TERRESA AUBELE (Wabash College), Rachel Kristiansen (Sheridan College), Matthew Murphy (Tufts University), S. John Gatley (Northeastern University), John C. Neill (Long Island University)

We hypothesized that heavy ion irradiation causes severe impairments in auditory stimulus control and changes in the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potential (BAEP) in rats. Subject: 30 adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided randomly into three groups: brains of rats were exposed to either 0, 120 or 240 cGy accelerated iron ions (56Fe) of 600 MeV per nucleon at the National Space Radiation Laboratory. Eight months later, rats were deprived to 80% of ad lib, given preliminary training on a VI 22 s schedule during silence in half hour sessions until lever presses occurred at steady rates. Two auditory cues (half S+, half S-) were then introduced to signal consequences using a discrete trial procedure. S+ and S- alternated semi-randomly on a silent ITI (inter-trial interval) of 22.5 s, (range: 5 - 45 s). Controls acquired the S+/S- discrimination significantly faster than irradiated rats in a dose-dependent function. There was a dose-dependent Increase in S- response rate in all conditions. BAEPS: Fe 56 irradiation caused a dose-dependent decrease in wave I-IV latencies. Performances were compared to animals exposed to seizures early in life and similar functions were obtained. Cosmic rays are neurotoxic, causing behavioral and neurological changes in humans.




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