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:
What We’re Currently up to in the Barrett Initiative…
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.
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 first two speakers: Dr. John Donahoe and Dr. Edward Taub. More details will be released soon.
Dr. John Donahoe
Two Virtual Events:
Talk 1: Behavior analysis and biology: Searching for a principle of behavioral selection
Friday, June 10th, 2:00 pm CDT | Register
Talk 2: Neural basis of the unified principle of reinforcement and its implications
Friday, June 17th, 2:00 pm CDT | Registration Coming Soon!
We'll offer free BACB continuing education credits to those attending this event (UNT Department of Behavior Analysis, ACE Provider Number OP-19-3090).
Dr. Donahoe is a Professor Emeritus from the Behavioral Neuroscience Division of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He was an undergraduate chemistry major at Rutgers University and received a doctorate in experimental psychology with a minor in neurophysiology from the Thomas Hunt Morgan School of Biological Sciences at the University of Kentucky. He came to psychology after taking an undergraduate course in physiological psychology taught by Daniel Lehrman, then a new assistant professor but ultimately a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and editor of the Journal of Physiological and Comparative Psychology. Upon hearing that Donahoe intended to pursue a doctorate in psychology, Lehrman’s only advice was to avoid programs influenced by Clark Hull at Yale, then a major figure in the field of learning. Because of financial considerations, Donahoe accepted admission to the program at the University of Kentucky whereupon he discovered that the department was chaired and heavily influenced by one of Hull’s former students. So much for Lehrman’s advice! During his fourth year of graduate study, Donahoe was appointed a Lecturer and subsequently an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department and the Computing Center at the University of Kentucky. Following postdoctoral study at the Center for Brain Research at the University of Rochester, he moved to the University of Massachusetts where he remains until the present time. His primary research interests are the reinforcement process, the acquisition of stimulus control, and the interpretation of complex behavior using neural networks. His research has been supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Darwin’s work on evolution through natural selection is routinely cited as providing a model for the search for a principle of behavioral selection. However, researchers soon departed from the Darwinian approach of basing the principle on a careful analysis of the observed environmental events and their corresponding observable behavioral characteristics. Instead, for these researchers, the purpose of observing behavior was not to refine the selection principle but to provide a basis for inferences about the underlying processes and structures thought to produce the behavior. This departure from the Darwinian model led ultimately to what is commonly known as the “cognitive revolution” in psychology. Two talks will describe work seeking a principle of behavioral selection and its neural mechanisms. In the first talk, research is described that refines our understanding of behavioral selection and explores some of its implications for the development of complex behavior. In the second talk, the neural mechanisms that implement behavioral selection are described. A synthesis of behavioral and neural research on the principle of behavioral selection makes possible an understanding of the important phenomena of memory and language that are the objects of the cognitive revolution.
Upcoming for Fall 2022:
Dr. Edward Taub
Talk 1: The relationship between behavior analysis and neuroscience: The great feedback loop
Talk 2: Behavior analytic methodology and origins of constraint-induced movement: A family of rehabilitative therapies
Times, date, and registration information will be released soon. Sign up for our mailing list above to get updates about these events.
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.
Want to Learn More about Behavior Analytic Neuroscience?
We’re excited to announce our inaugural lecture series. Our first speakers will be Drs. John Donahoe and Edward Taub. Both researchers have made important contributions to both behavior analysis and neuroscience.
Dr. Donahoe will kick off our series with a virtual event titled Behavior analysis and biology: Searching for a principle of behavioral selection on Friday, June 10th, 2022 at 2:00 pm CDT. We’ll be offering free BACB continuing education credits to those attending the event.
Register for this FREE lecture on our events page.