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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #421
CE Offered: BACB
Expanding Methods and Laboratory Infrastructure to Better Understand Human Behavior
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Zurich D, Swissotel
Area: EAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Ayla Schmick (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
CE Instructor: Matthew L. Johnson, M.S.

As costs and bureaucratic considerations have diminished the existence of traditional animal labs in the study of the basic processes underlying behavior, advances in the research of non-traditional organisms have advanced considerably over the past decade. The symposium will discuss how to build an invertebrate laboratory in behavior analysis graduate programs, evaluate the use of robotic technology in application with aquatic vertebrates, and discuss the past, present, and future of the use of animal models in behavior analytic research. Together, these talks will highlight a method for building an animal laboratory when resources may not be available to maintain traditional laboratory arrangements, as well as discuss the idiosyncratic advantages associated with each of the species examined.

Keyword(s): Animal Laboratory, Aquatic Invertebrates, Robotic Technology
Becoming Invertebrate Researchers: Starting a Laboratory, Building Apparatuses, and Studying the Behavior of Organisms
MATTHEW L. JOHNSON (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Ashley Shayter (Southern Illinois University), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: Recently, there has been a good deal of discussion about alternatives to conventional animal learning and research laboratories. Many of these discussions have been conceptual in nature including topics such as economic and logistic considerations, the utilization of nontraditional model organisms, and alternatives to expensive commercial equipment. While these discussions have provided the behavioral community with a number of practical suggestions, it is rarely the case that the practice of actually creating a laboratory, especially one that is nonconventional, is given much attention. It seems to be the case that this skill is assumed to be in the repertoire of behavior analysts without ever having been explicitly taught. The behavioral community would likely benefit from a discussion of this topic as it is important for the future of the field that this skill not be lost as older behavior analysts pass the torch. Therefore, the purpose of this presentation is to elaborate on the process of creating a new laboratory while considering previously discussed downsides associated with traditional laboratories for the experimental analysis of behavior.
The Robotic Aquatic Operant Lab: Reducing Cost and Increasing Access to Animal Research for All
SEAN DRISCOLL (Florida Institute of Technology), Katherine Kavanaugh (Florida Institute of Technology), Joshua K. Pritchard (Florida Institute of Technology)
Abstract: Rats and pigeons are the basis of many of the discoveries and elucidation of behavioral principles. Many behavior analytic programs incorporate pigeon or rat labs into their courses on the experimental analysis of behavior in addition to conducting research with them. However, the development and maintenance of a basic animal laboratory with rats and pigeons is costly. At Florida Tech, we have had an aquatic operant lab as a more economic alternative, using goldfish as the studied animal. We have also let geographically distant students access our lab space and explore the use of it over a fast internet connection. One of the biggest barriers we have faced in scaling this solution is the fact that a human is needed in the lab at the time that a distant student wants to engage. Moreover, moving fish from home tank to experimental chambers introduces numerous potential confounds which may affect behavior changes. Our solution is inspired by other lab solutions we have encountered: we flipped the situation by housing the animals and bringing the “chamber” to the fish. By using automated robotic systems to bring the operant chambers to fish instead, eliminating the need for human workers to move the gold fish also reduces costs of wages. A convenient byproduct of this process is increased accessibility, such that anyone with a computer can design and run experiments without having physical access to an animal laboratory.

Back to the Future: Animal Laboratories: Where Are We Now?

KATHERINE KAVANAUGH (Florida Institute of Technology), Sean Driscoll (Florida Institute of Technology), Joshua K. Pritchard (Florida Institute of Technology)

Scientists have used animals to better understand the natural world as early as the ancient Grecians, and this practice continues today. One of the earliest types of animal research conducted by scientists was the dissection of animals to try and understand how the body works. Our science, behavior analysis, also began with animal research from dogs, to cats, and most famously, rats & pigeons. These latter species were the conduit through which much of our understanding of behavioral principles were discovered. Skinner first described the effects of varied schedules of reinforcement after hundreds of sessions with rats in an operant chamber. Today, most in the field have an applied focus, solving real world problems with principles of behavior, and sometimes the training programs forego any exposure to animal labs. A trending area in our field, translational research, includes the parallel investigation of phenomena both in a basic laboratory as well as in applied settings, this has been tremendously valuable to the progress of our science, and promises to be critical to our future. As such, it becomes more and more apparent that animal labs are critical for the training of graduate students as well as the continued growth of our understanding of behavioral phenomena. Unfortunately, the number of animal labs in our field seem to be shrinking as costs and bureaucratic hurdles overwhelm the resources allocated. This paper will discuss the state of our animal labs in the US and propose a solution in the form of non-traditional species.




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