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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Symposium #242
Capers Born of Captivity: Understanding and Treating Diverse Behavior Problems in Captive Animals
Sunday, May 30, 2010
2:30 PM–3:50 PM
Lone Star Ballroom Salon A (Grand Hyatt)
Area: AAB/TPC; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Jennifer L. Sobie (University of Illinois)
Discussant: Susan G. Friedman (Utah State University)
Abstract: Many species kept in captivity develop behaviors that appear nonfunctional to their owners and caregivers. Some behaviors appear abnormal because caregivers typically look inside the animal rather than the environment to explain behavior, appealing to the devil, defects or the animal's DNA. Other behaviors appear abnormal because they are repetitive or exaggerated and are often directed towards irregular or apparently nonexistent stimuli. Behaviors in this category may include stereotypies, sequences of behaviors that are repetitive, topographically invariant and conventionally nonfunctional, or exaggerated species-specific responses that are considered normal and functional in the animal’s natural environment but that are performed out of context. Because such behavior can become increasingly fixed and take up an excessive amount of an animal’s time, they can interfere with many aspects of an animal’s life and a great deal of distress for human caregivers. Traditionally, such response patterns have been considered treatment resistant and subject to attempts at management or pharmacological intervention. In this symposium both the etiology and neurobiology of stereotypies, and a diverse set of case studies will be discussed to demonstrate the ways in which behavior analysis can be applied to ameliorate behavior problems with cats, dogs, horses and parrots
Functional and Morphological Heterogeneity of Stereotypies: Towards a Unifying Theory
MATTHEW PARKER (The Royal Veterinary College)
Abstract: Stereotypies are repetitive, topographically invariant response sequences which can be induced by stimulant drugs, but also occur spontaneously in captive animals and are associated with autism and some psychiatric disturbances. Despite a number of similarities between the various affectations, at both the behavioural and neurophysiological/neurochemical level, as yet there is little in the way of empirical comparison between them. Notably, some authors have suggested that the key to understanding the heterogeneity of stereotypies lies in dysfunction between inhibitory and excitatory neural feedback pathways in the basal ganglia. While this is interesting, and provides a useful framework by which to begin to conceptualise some of the repetitive features, it falls short of adequately explaining the neurophysiological and neurochemical correlates, neither does it explain some fundamental differences in the way that stereotypic animals learn. In this talk, I will outline significant behavioural and neurobiological features associated with the various forms of stereotypy and some of the research which has attempted to plug-the-gap between them. I will provide evidence from recent work we have carried out with rats which may be very useful in the search for a unifying theory of stereotypy, with its origins in midbrain, and in particular, striatal neurochemical markers.
Treatment of Stereotypic Behavior in Companion Animal
JENNIFER L. SOBIE (University of Illinois)
Abstract: Stereotypies have been recognized to occur in otherwise healthy dogs and cats and to present as treatment resistant disorders. Stereotypy etiology is unknown: studies indicate that stereotypies often develop under stressful situations generally associated with inhibition of a species’ social or behavioral needs in preference of convenience; stereotypies may be induced by skin lesions or other physiological stress; data show a statistical prevalence of certain stereotypies in specific breeds and therefore provide some evidence that stereotypies may have a genetic component—although breed-specific husbandry practices and activity predispositions are confounding variables in such studies; case histories offer indication that some stereotypies may actually be functional and supported most often by handler attention. Conventional treatment consists of response or environmental management and incorporation of pharmaceutical intervention, but does not routinely include evaluation and modification of behavioral functional relationships. This presentation discusses stereotypies in companion animals and provides case studies that examine treatment based on incorporation of behavior analytic practices including functional assessment, manipulation of motivating operations and antecedent events and differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior.
From Textbook to Practice: Changing Environments to Change Pet Parrot Behavior
SUSAN G. FRIEDMAN (Utah State University)
Abstract: Pet behavior problems are challenging for caregivers and veterinarians. Applied behavior analysis offers a practical model of support to prevent and resolve many of these problems. This model divides behavior problems into two general categories: Not enough of the right behavior and too much of the wrong behavior. Depending on which of the two problems we face, our goal will be to increase some behaviors and decrease others. Most often we do both. Understanding the functional relations between behavior and environmental events is key to accomplishing these goals. Behavior is never independent of conditions, and, in the captive environment where caregivers arrange so many of the conditions, this is indeed good news. Two case studies will be presented to demonstrate a systematic approach to assessing behavior-environment relations and designing a behavior-change intervention with two problem pet parrot behaviors. These successful programs were designed and implemented by the caregivers themselves, with professional supervision.



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