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.


Substance Use and Addiction Conference; Washington DC; 2018

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #2
Basic Behavioral Processes: Delay Discounting
Monday, November 19, 2018
8:30 AM–11:00 AM
Independence Hall A
Domain: Service Delivery
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Mark Galizio, Ph.D.
Chair: Mark Galizio (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
Discussant: Leonard Green (Washington University)

Experimental Manipulations of Delay Discounting

GREGORY J. MADDEN (Utah State University)
Gregory J. Madden received his Ph.D. from West Virginia University and currently holds the position of professor at Utah State University, having previously held faculty positions at the University of Kansas and the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. Dr. Madden’s program of research has been aimed at understanding the basic mechanisms of reinforcement in humans and other animals, a topic of broad conceptual and applied significance in the field of psychology. He is an internationally known researcher in the field of behavioral economics, with special emphases on impulsive choice in gambling and drug addiction. Collectively, his work has merited more than $3 million of federal funding, and his peer-reviewed papers have been cited more than 3,500 times. Since 2010 he has been active in translational efforts, particularly in applications of behavioral economics to influencing childhood dietary decision-making. Dr. Madden has held several key editorial positions, and has served in leadership roles in professional societies and organizations, including the Executive Council of ABAI, Division 25 (Behavior Analysis) of the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (SEAB). Especially noteworthy was his appointment as editor in chief of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Dr. Madden has also co-edited two important and influential books, Impulsivity: The Behavioral and Neurological Science of Discounting and the APA Handbook of Behavior Analysis, Volumes I and II, both published by APA.

Many behaviors posing significant risks to public health are characterized by repeated decisions to forego better long-term outcomes for immediate temptations. This steep discounting of delayed outcomes is correlated with addictions (e.g., substance abuse, obesity) and impactful behaviors such as seatbelt use and early sexual activity. As evidence accumulates that steep delay discounting plays a causal role in these maladaptive behaviors, researchers have begun identifying experimental methods for reducing discounting. This presentation will provide a systematic review of this literature, highlighting successes and areas in which further research is needed.


Delay Discounting and Genetics of Impulsivity

SUZANNE H. MITCHELL (Oregon Health & Science University)
Suzanne H. Mitchell, Ph.D., is a Professor at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in Psychiatry and in the Oregon Institute for Occupational health Science. She obtained her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees at the University of Hull, England and her Ph.D. at SUNY-Stony Brook, USA. Her dissertation focused on the economics of foraging behavior of rats, examining the role of the energetic costs and benefits in feeding. Her committee was chaired by Howard Rachlin, whose influence made her sensitive to the role of temporal costs as well as energetic costs in determining the value of food rewards. During a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago, Dr. Mitchell worked with Harriet de Wit, Ph.D. using behavioral economics as an explanation for use of alcohol, nicotine/cigarettes, and amphetamine in humans. During that time she also began collaborating with Jerry Richards, Ph.D. on delay discounting studies with rats. Following her postdoctoral work, Dr. Mitchell was an assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire, where she continued to explore recreational drug use using behavioral economic models. She moved her lab to OHSU in 2001 from the University of New Hampshire to devote more time to research, particularly looking into why drug users tend to be more impulsive than non-drug users using human and animal models. Most recently she has returned to her earlier interests in energetic costs and her research has increased its scope to include effort-related decision-making in clinical populations. She has received funding from various NIH institutes (NHLBI, NIAAA, NIDA and NIH), has served on several study sections as a member and as an ad hoc participant, and has received awards for education and mentoring.

High levels of impulsivity (delay discounting [DD], relative preference for smaller but immediate rewards over larger but delayed rewards) are associated with various psychopathologies including alcohol use disorder. Data indicate that there are genetic influences on DD and on the development of alcohol use disorder, but the genetic relationships amongst DD and alcohol consumption and other heritable features of alcohol response are unclear. This presentation will describe several techniques used to examine the role of genetics in behavior in animal models and a series of studies using them to examine the genetically-based co-relationships between excessive alcohol use and steep delay discounting. In these studies, male mice were exposed to the adjusting amount procedure (Richards et al. 1997, J Exp Anal Behav, 67, 353-366). This procedures requires mice to choose between a small, immediate sucrose-solution reward and a larger sucrose-solution reward that is delayed 0, 2, 4, 8 or 12 s on different sessions. In one study, behavior for 11 inbred strains was assessed, and genetic correlations with ethanol-associated endophenotypes derived. Other studies assessed DD in lines selected for differing levels of ethanol withdrawal symptomatology or ethanol consumption, and correlations between DD and responses to passively administered ethanol in a heterogeneous mouse stock to identify novel phenotypic targets. Data suggest that DD has a heritable component in mice, and is genetically associated with chronic withdrawal and consumption, but that effect sizes are small. Implications for human alcohol use and delay discounting will be discussed and knowledge gaps identified.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) discuss the delay discounting process; (2) understand how delay discounting may underlie decisions leading to addictions; (3) list at least 3 interventions that have proven successful in reducing delay discounting; (4) describe two procedures used in basic research to demonstrate the role of genetics in behavior; (5) explain the difference between a genotype, phenotype, and endophenotype; (6) discuss the data indicating that an individual’s level of delay discounting can be classified as an endophenotype; (7) describe behavioral procedures to assess alcohol-related phenotypes in mice; (8) assess the genetic-basis of the relationship between delay discounting and the potential for alcohol abuse.



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