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.

  • AUT: Autism

    BPH: Behavioral Pharmacology

    CBM: Clinical/Family/Behavioral Medicine

    DEV: Behavioral Development

    EAB: Experimental Analysis of Behavior

    VRB: Verbal Behavior

34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Program by B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Events: Monday, May 26, 2008

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #330

Object Recognition by Dolphins

Monday, May 26, 2008
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Grand Ballroom
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: James S. MacDonall (Fordham University)
Dr. Herbert L. Roitblat received his BA in Psychology from Reed College in 1974, and his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1978. He was an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Columbia University from 1978 to 1985. He then joined the faculty at the University of Hawaii. In 1999 Roitblat co-founded DolphinSearch, an information retrieval company in Ventura, California. In 2002, he left Hawaii to work full time on DolphinSearch. DolphinSearch used neural network principles to help lawyers identify documents that were relevant to the case they were litigating. In 2006, he co-founded a new information retrieval company, OrcaTec, where he is currently a Principal. OrcaTec provides consulting and software to government and businesses concerning information retrieval and knowledge management.

Characterizing the information that dolphins receive and how they use that information in object recognition present special challenges. The dolphin biosonar system is so different from our own perceptual system that we are not overly bound by own experiences and expectations. This difference allows us to examine fundamental questions about the nature of perception. Vision is for most humans, such a primary sense, that it compels perceptual scientists to view other senses in relation to vision. However, the information that a dolphin gets through its biosonar is nearly as complex as the information we receive through visionobject structure and material compositionbut it comes through a different sensory modality. This talk will consider the similarities and differences between human and dolphin perception and what we can learn from these relations about perception in general.

B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #360
CE Offered: BACB

Blaming the Brain

Monday, May 26, 2008
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Grand Ballroom
Area: CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
CE Instructor: Elliot Valenstein, Ph.D.
Chair: Jonathan W. Kanter (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)
ELLIOT VALENSTEIN (University of Michigan)
Dr. Elliot Valenstein is a professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan. His theories challenge the conventional assumption that mental illness is biochemical, rejecting the simpleminded 'chemical imbalance' theories used by drug companies in marketing their products, contending people should be suspicious of such claims while suggesting the targets of the marketing are usually medicating themselves unnecessarily. In his 1998 book, Blaming the Brain: The Truth about Drugs and Mental Health, Valenstein argues that while psychotropic drugs sometimes do work, they do not even begin to address the real cause of mental disorders, since in his view biochemical theories are an entirely "unproven hypothesis" used to excuse what he sees as often unconscionable marketing practices of the drug industry. Valenstein acknowledges a combination of medications and psychotherapy often offers the best chance of success at treating common disorders, but stresses no one knows exactly why. Valenstein examines the various special interests behind the ascent in the latter half of the 20th century of purely biopsychiatric hypotheses, which appeal strongly to pharmaceutical companies. Their commercial motives are driven by the enormous, multi-billion dollar stakes involved in the intensely competitive marketing for such drugs as Prozac, Zyprexa, and Zoloft. Aggressive marketing, Valenstein contends, has dramatically changed practices in the mental health profession. He explores other aspects of the growing influence of drug companies, which sponsor research, lobby government officials, market directly to both consumers and primary care physicians (the primary prescribers of psychiatric drugs), and pressure psychiatric journals to downplay studies casting doubt on drug safety and efficacy. In 2000, Valenstein presented "A Critique of Current Biochemical Theories of Mental Illness" as the keynote speaker at the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM) convention. In his 1986 book Great and Desperate Cures: The Rise and Decline of Psychosurgery and Other Radical Treatments for Mental Illness, Valenstein explores the history of lobotomy’s heyday, in the 1940s and 1950s, while questioning the legitimacy of widespread use of such unproven medical treatments. The truth, says Valenstein, is that we are only at the dawn of an understanding of mental illness. "The factors that fostered (the operations’) development and made them flourish," explains Valenstein, "are still active today."

It has been said that explaining the mental illness has changed from blaming the mother to blaming the brain. The latter refers to the wide acceptance of the theory that abnormal brain chemistry can explain mental illness. The talk will include a look at the biochemical theories of mental illness by reviewing some of the historical roots, examine the logic and empirical evidence used to support these theories, and discuss why these theories are so popular.

B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #390
CE Offered: BACB

The Choice to Take a Drug of Abuse: Contributions of Research with Non-Humans

Monday, May 26, 2008
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
International North
Area: BPH; Domain: Basic Research
CE Instructor: William L. Woolverton, Ph.D.
Chair: John M. Roll (Washington State University)
WILLIAM L. WOOLVERTON (University of Mississippi Medical Center)
Dr. William L. Woolverton is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Trained as a behavioral pharmacologist, he has maintained a multi-disciplinary research effort that has included both pharmacological and behavioral analysis of factors that influence drug self-administration and drug discrimination by non-human subjects. He has published over 160 scientific papers and approximately 30 book chapters. He is well known for his work on the relationship between monoamine neurotransmitters and stimulant abuse, and for his study of the behavioral determinants of the choice to self-administer a drug. He received several awards acknowledging his research contributions. His service and teaching activities include membership on the Board of Directors of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, several NIH Study Sections, and mentorship of numerous pre- and post-doctoral fellows in behavioral pharmacology and addiction research.

Much of behavior, including self-administration of abused drugs, may be conceptualized as involving a choice among available alternatives. Laboratory research involving non-humans has substantially contributed to our understanding of the behavioral determinants of drug choice. It has been demonstrated that the relative magnitude of drug and non-drug reinforcers, as well as relative cost, frequency and probability of reinforcement can all influence the choice to take a drug. Recent research has suggested that the choice to self-administer a drug may be strongly influenced by the rate at which the value of delayed reinforcers is discounted. Research with non-humans has much to contribute to our understanding of this conceptualization. In addition to helping us understand environmental determinants of drug abuse, basic research with non-humans can help suggest behavioral treatment strategies that may be useful alone or in conjunction with pharmacological treatment.




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