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.
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. Michael Merzenich, PhD, is one of the scientists responsible for our current understanding of brain plasticity–the notion that the brain can change itself at any age. For nearly five decades, he and his colleagues have conducted seminal research defining the functional organization of the auditory and somatosensory nervous systems. Research on cortical plasticity conducted in his laboratory has greatly contributed to our current understanding of the phenomenology of brain plasticity across the human lifetime. Dr. Merzenich has received numerous prestigious awards and prizes for his research and holds nearly 100 patents for his work. He is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. In 2016, Dr. Merzenich was awarded one of the world’s top neuroscience prizes, the Kavli Prize, for his achievements in the field of brain plasticity.
Abstract: The Brain Plasticity Revolution- September 15th, 2023
Historically, the brain has been regarded as “hard wired.” That is, many neural processes were regarded as permanent and inflexible. Rewiring of the brain was limited to the early years of a person’s life or special circumstances. However, research in recent decades has shown the exact opposite. From the day you are born to the day you die, your brain is constantly changing through neurological remodeling processes. Studies have shown how to ‘harness the (neuroplasticity) genie’ in ways that reverse negative brain changes that are attributed to aging, stress, and trauma. Research has also investigated how the right training can sustain our organic brain health, improve our neuropsychological capabilities, extending our lives, and delay progressions to a host of neurological, psychiatric and social maladies. In addition, our growing understanding of the ‘neuroplasticity’ processes of the brain across the span of our lives has transformed our understanding of the origins of both positive and negative aspects of our emergent operational personhoods. In other words, the constant wiring and re-wiring in your brain creates the unique, one-of-a-kind you. This talk will introduce you to the transformative science of brain plasticity and consider important implications of this science for human health and welfare.
Abstract: Brain Plasticity-Informed Therapeutics: Recent Progress and Advances- November 3rd, 2023
The term neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt during an individual’s lifetime (neuro = neuron, plasticity = the malleability of the brain). Brain plasticity is responsible for both synaptic strengthening and synaptic weaking processes. That is, brain plasticity can help strengthen and improve your brain but can also cause weakening and decay. The good news is that researchers have demonstrated that almost all plasticity-induced changes are reversable and that neural responses can be modified and improved through neurobehavioral training. This talk will summarize recent progress in the development of brain plasticity-based therapeutics. We will examine brain plasticity-based strategies that have been designed to restore and strengthen brain health and functionality. In addition, we will look at how this emerging science and technology can be applied to four areas: a) brain-healthy aging; b) prevention of—and neurological recovery from—’criminal’ train-wrecks; c) prevention and treat of psychiatric illness; and d) incorporation of routine assessment of brain health in general medical practice.