Who Are We?
Behavior Analysis + Neuroscience
Dr. Beatrice Barrett and Dr. Ogden Lindsley
Our mission is to use behavior analytic concepts and free-operant methods to advance the understanding of operant behavior as it relates to neural activity.
This is accomplished through research, education, and dissemination. This initiative is maintained through an endowment made by Dr. Beatrice H. Barrett, whose vision for the future of behavior analysis included the domain of neuroscience.
This site hosts Dr. Barrett’s electronic archive featuring her publications, data, and institutional records from her Behavioral Prosthesis Laboratory at the Fernald State School in Waltham, MA, as well as pages highlighting the on-going research of the Barrett Initiative labs in the Behavior Analysis Department at the University of North Texas, and promoting virtual and in-person events connecting behavior analytic and neuroscientific research.
Suggested Readings To Get Started in Behavior Analytic Neuroscience:
News and Updates From the Barrett Initiative Blog…
Want to learn how behavior analysis and neuroscience? Dr. Donahoe’s writing is an excellent place to begin.
As we get ready for our upcoming virtual events with Dr. John Donahoe, we wanted to share some readings we return to often in our Barrett Initiative lab meetings. 1. A Recent Chapter on Biological Behaviorism Dr. Donahoe recently contributed a chapter on biological...
Dr. Beatrice Barrett’s Legacy
Her research spanned many critical areas in Behavior Analysis, looking at response discrimination and differentiation, reinforcer assessment, programmed instruction, classroom adjustment of children with developmental disabilities, behavioral dimensions of trainability (functional assessments of children with severe and profound disabilities), as well as staff and teacher training. Dr. Barrett and her colleagues were among the first to apply free-operant behavioral principles to the teaching of those with developmental disabilities. Towards the end of her career, she worked towards creating a measurement system for children with developmental disabilities so their quality of life would be improved.
Research conducted by the Barrett Initiative investigates links between operant behavior and neural activity, both by using methodology and measurement approaches developed by Dr. Barrett and by Dr. Ogden Lindsley and by developing new methods of analysis
Neuro-Behavioral EEG Laboratory
Dr. Daniele Ortu
Daniele Ortu is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas, where he teaches Behavioral Neuroscience. He received his M.A. from AILUN in Nuoro (Italy) and his Ph.D. from the University of Stirling (United Kingdom). His primary interests are real-time measures of brain activity, specifically Electroencephalography and Event-Related Potentials and how they relate to a Skinnerian perspective. Conceptually, Dr. Ortu is involved in understanding how brain responses can help provide some missing pieces of the puzzle when it comes to comprehending complex human behavior. Daniele is on the editorial board of the Journal for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Behavior and Social Issues, Behavior and Philosophy, and is a Guest Editor for Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Neuroplasticity and Repertoire Repair Lab
Dr. April Becker
April Becker is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas. She received her B.S. from Colorado State University, where she studied cellular mechanisms of muscle atrophy under Dr. Donald Mykles and behavioral ecology and songbird vocalizations under Dr. Myron Baker. After working in various zoos and aquariums as an animal trainer, presenter, and caretaker, she earned her M.S. in Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas working with Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz and Dr. Sigrid Glenn studying motivation, creativity and cultural contingencies. Dr. Becker earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Neuroscience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center where her work with Dr. Mark Goldberg focused on behavioral recovery from brain injury and the use of plasticity-modulating pathways to augment rehabilitation. Dr. Becker’s research and interests have several aims: to understand multi-level selection ranging from brain to cultural development, to better understand the basic brain mechanisms of learning and behavior in a radical behavior framework, and to develop better clinical and translational approaches to brain injury rehabilitation.
Interested in Educational Opportunities with the Barrett Initiative and the Behavior Analysis program at the University of North Texas?
Current Interdisciplinary Courses Offered:
Behavioral Neuroscience - BEHV 5900
The brain plays a fundamental role in allowing organisms to learn and interact effectively with their environment. In this course we will analyze how neural activation and anatomy are shaped – during the lifetime of the individual – by relevant behavioral variables. We will look at different levels of resolution, starting from the individual neuron, its structure and how neurons communicate with each other, to larger structural elements (e.g., the hippocampus), and to the whole organism. In all cases we will take into account how experience continuously modifies structure and activation of neural variables. The course will stress that brain activation in relation to behavioral variables can only be understood by taking a systemic approach in which the role of individual areas is best understood within the context of other brain areas and within the natural environment. We will introduce the methodologies typically used in behavioral neuroscience, with a specific focus on neuroimaging technologies applied to the behaving organism.
Brain Plasticity and Behavioral Dynamics - BEHV 5910
In the first part of this course, students will be introduced to prerequisite concepts in biology and behavioral sciences necessary to understand brain function. They will then broadly survey the general architecture of the mammalian brain, the known functions of important areas, the integration of substructures, and to a few important general principles of mammalian connectivity and network structure. The second part of the course will focus on the mechanisms by which brains change on the cellular, synaptic, and systems levels, the relationship between brain and behavioral changes, the relationship of plasticity to the environment, and the physiological mediation of environment-behavior relations. Although it is not required, students will be best prepared for this course if they have already taken one at least one of the following: BEHV4900-711 (Behavioral Neuroscience), BIOL 4751/BIOL 5751 (Neuroscience: Cells and Circuits), and BEHV 2700, 2300, 3150, or 5100 (Introduction to Behavior Analysis).
To further research and training missions of the Initiative, both the Neurobehavioral EEG Lab and the Neuroplasticity and Repertoire Repair Lab provide advanced research training and opportunities on the undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral levels. These opportunities are designed to provide well-rounded experiences and development for young scientists that will eventually contribute to the intersection of behavior analysis and neuroscience through independent research or clinical practice.
Both laboratories participate in the Masters of Science Training Program as well as UNT’s Doctoral program in Health Sciences Research with a concentration in Behavior Analysis. Students training in UNT’s Behavior Analysis undergraduate program, as well as Biology, Psychology, or other relevant majors, are welcome to seek undergraduate research experience. Both labs have hosted McNair Undergraduate Scholars as well as Undergraduate Research Fellows.
Want to Learn More about Behavior Analytic Neuroscience?
We're excited to announce the second speaker of our inaugural lecture series, Dr. Edward Taub. The first event, titled The Relationship Between Behavior Analysis and Neuroscience: The Great Feedback Loop, will occur virtually on September 30th, 2022 at 2 pm.
Register for this FREE lecture on our events page.
The Barrett Initiative works to disseminate information within the behavior analysis community, the neuroscience community, and the scientific community at large that to advance the understanding of the connections between operant behavior and neural activity. In addition to publications, the Barrett Institute hosts a range of virtual and live events featuring researchers from both neuroscience, behavior analysis, and other complimentary disciplines.
Beatrice H. Barrett Lectures on Brain and Behavior: Paradigm Fusion
We’re hard at work planning events to bring together professionals from across the neurosciences and behavior analysis. Stay tuned for more details about virtual and live events. We’re thrilled to announce our next speaker, Dr. Edward Taub. More details will be released soon.
Upcoming for Fall 2022:
Dr. Edward Taub
Talk 1: The relationship between behavior analysis and neuroscience: The great feedback loop
September 30th, 2022 at 2 pm CDT | Register
Talk 2: Behavior analytic methodology and origins of constraint-induced movement: A family of rehabilitative therapies
October 28st, 2022 at 3 pm CDT (In-person and at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX and online)
Registration and specific details regarding the location of our in person event are forthcoming.
Dr. Edward Taub is a University Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Drs. Neal E. Miller, Fred Keller and Joseph V. Brady were his main mentors. He received his masters degree from Columbia University where he was introduced to the behavior analysis methods he later incorporated into CI Therapy, the family of rehabilitation treatments he developed. He received his doctoral degree from New York University in psychology under the supervision of Dr. Edgar E. Coons. His research has been primarily in the fields of motor control, behavioral neuroscience, behavioral medicine, and neurorehabilitation. Among his major accomplishments is the development of the aforementioned family of techniques — Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (or CIMT) — that have been shown to be effective in improving the rehabilitation of movement in stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy in young children, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological injuries. In recent years the application of the basic methodology has been extended to the cognitive domain: CI Aphasia Therapy (CIAT) and CI Cognitive Therapy (CICT). His body of CI therapy research was named by the Society of Neuroscience as one of the top 10 Translational Neuroscience Accomplishments of the 20th century and one of the 10 “most exciting lines of neuroscience”. Dr. Taub has been President of Section J (Psychology) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), President of the Biofeedback Society of America, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Humboldt Foundation Fellow, and Co-President of the Claude Bernard Club, a research honorary society in the field of applied psychophysiology. He has been on the Board of Directors of four national scientific societies and is a Fellow of four societies. He has received the top awards for his research from three national professional organizations and from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 2003, the research from his laboratory was named by the Society for Neuroscience as being one of the 10 leading examples of translational research in the field of neuroscience in the twentieth century.
B.F. Skinner famously proposed that the laws of behavior could be developed without any reference to the nervous system. That this is possible is amply demonstrated by the now- long and successful history of operant conditioning/behavior analysis research and practice over the past 90 years. However, there is nothing in Skinner’s original formulation that implies that behavior and the nervous system do not interact in important ways. It is evident that the nervous system is the final common pathway, integrating input from the environment and various internal systems to activate the peripheral nervous system, muscles and skeleton to produce movements that operate on the external environment – in short, producing behavior. What wasn’t known clearly until the pathbreaking work from the Mezenich laboratory in the 1990’s was that behavior in turn can have an equally profound effect on the nervous system. This process is now termed, among other things, use-dependent cortical reorganization or brain plasticity.
A clear case in point is the development of Constraint-Induced Therapy, a family of rehabilitation treatments developed here. Members of this family of treatments were used initially for the rehabilitation of the impaired movements of the upper and lower extremities (CI Movement Therapy) after stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and cerebral palsy (Pediatric CI Movement Therapy), and subsequently for impaired speech after stroke (CI Aphasia Therapy) and impaired executive function after stroke and COVID-19 (CI Cognitive Therapy). The foundation of this therapy is based entirely on behavior analysis principles and practice that I learned from my revered first mentor at Columbia University, Fred Keller, and later from my equally valued later mentor, Joseph V. Brady at the Institute of Behavioral Research (IBR) and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research with further impact from Neal Miller. The process by which this came about will be described in my talk.
Numerous experiments have shown that different members of the CI Therapy family of treatments have a profound effect on the structure and function of the brain, and this in turn can have a marked effect on improving impaired movement, speech, and executive function after central nervous system injury. This is an example of the more general continual strong interaction of behavior and the nervous system serving to modify and shape both throughout the life span in a great feedback loop fundamental to the generation of behavior and the way in which the control of behavior can be used for the rehabilitation of movement impaired by CNS injury. It is important to take into consideration this “great feedback loop” in evaluating the potential of behavior analysis for improving the human condition.
Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy or CI Therapy is a family of neurorehabilitation treatments based almost entirely on behavior analysis methodology. It is derived from basic research experiments with monkeys given a surgical abolition of sensation from a single forelimb in which a useless deafferented limb was converted to a useful (though not normal) limb by shaping and other behavioral methods. Subsequently, the primate results provided the basis for the development of the CI Therapy family of interventions for humans for the rehabilitation of impaired function after stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other types of central nervous system damage. The impaired functions improved by this behavior analysis-based treatment include upper and lower extremity movement, focal hand dystonia in musicians, post-amputation phantom limb pain, aphasia and executive cognitive function.
The same behavior analytic techniques are employed in all variants of CI Therapy. They target the behaviors associated with the impaired function; e.g., movements, expressive speech, activities of daily living (ADL) generally considered to importantly involve executive cognitive function. The techniques include shaping of relevant ADL in the treatment setting and a Transfer Package (TP) of techniques to facilitate transfer of the behavior improved by shaping in the laboratory to everyday situations outside the treatment setting and the long-term retention of this real-world improvement. The TP techniques include a behavior contract in which a patient-caregiver dyad agree to keep trying to carry out difficult-to-perform impaired behaviors, daily assignment of homework that is monitored, daily discussion of the amount and quality of performance of lists of impaired behaviors in a structured interview, daily sessions of problem solving to overcome perceived (or real), barriers to carrying our specific impaired behaviors at home, and then post-treatment, assignment of daily homework and periodic, scheduled phone interviews. The result is usually very large improvements in impaired function. When long-term homework performance is carried out and follow-up contact is maintained, improvement sometimes improves into the normal range. The extent to which this is possible with different severities of initial deficit is yet to be determined.