Neuro-Operant EEG lab

Dr. Daniele Ortu, Ph.D.

Dr. Daniele Ortu, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

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 in 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.


Department of Behavior Analysis
University of North Texas


Selected Publications:

Schlund, M., & Ortu, D. (2010). Experience-dependent changes in human brain activation during contingency learning. Neuroscience, 165(1), 151-158. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.10.014

Ortu, D. (2012). Neuroscientific Measures of Covert Behavior. The Behavior Analyst, 35(1), 75–87.

Vaidya, M., Hudgins, C. D., & Ortu, D. (2015). Conditional discriminations, symmetry, and semantic priming. Behavioural processes118, 90-97.

Ortu, D., & Vaidya, M. (2016). The Challenges of Integrating Behavioral and Neural Data: Bridging and Breaking Boundaries Across Levels of Analysis.

Ortu, D., & Cihon, T. M. (2018). A Neuro-Operant Analysis of Mnemonic Recognition. Perspectives on behavior science42(2), 267–281.

Ortu D, Vaidya M. Intraexperimental development of priming and event related potentials effects with abstract geometrical stimuli. Behav Processes. 2020 Mar;172:104023. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2019.104023. Epub 2019 Dec 27. PMID: 31887340.



Lab Members
MK Moore

MK earned their bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in neuroscience from Georgia Southern University in 2019. They came to UNT in 2022 to begin on their MS in Behavior Analysis. MK currently works for the Beatrice H. Barrett Behavior Analytic Neuroscience Initiative as a Research Assistant during their graduate studies. They also worked as a Teaching Assistant for the Department of Behavior Analysis at UNT early in their degree progression. MK’s current research examines event related potentials and memory, animal training, and new applications with the Portable Operant Research & Teaching Laboratory (PORTL). They are also interested in exploring stimulus control as it relates to neuroscientific processes. Their work with the neuro-operant lab under the direction of Dr. Daniele Ortu also allows them to explore other neuroscientific questions from a radical behaviorist perspective. When they are not actively engaged in their studies and research, MK can be found spending time outdoors, with friends, or visiting their partner.
Cameron (Cam) Scallan

Cameron “Cam” Scallan earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2014 at McNeese State University. He earned a master’s degree in psychology (concentrating in Applied Behavior Analysis) in 2016, also at McNeese. After working professionally as a board certified behavior analyst in autism services, he decided he wanted to be an academic (this poor fool). Cam came to UNT in 2021 for the M.S. program to enhance his understanding of behavior and gain research and teaching experience before applying to Ph.D. programs. Though he initially came to UNT to learn from and primarily works with Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz, Cam was recently ‘hooked’ by the potential progress that behavior analytic neuroscience can bring. He is currently mulling over research possibilities within the Beatrice H. Barrett Behavior Analytic Neuroscience Initiative as he builds a foundational understanding of the current literature. However, Cam believes that the experimental designs and data collected through neuroscientific research can contribute to a better understanding of behavior analytic principles. He is particularly interested in understanding the goal-directed and habit literature and how those concepts apply to stimulus control and self-management strategies. He also has a few PORTL projects in the works to provide more discussion around stimulus-response relations. 

Bryn Harris

Bryn Harris obtained his bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in Spanish at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2019. He came to UNT in 2021 to work on his MS in Behavior Analysis. Over the years, Bryn has served in a teaching role in different settings for a wide variety of populations, from young children learning knots at summer camps to college-aged students conducting their first literature review. Bryn currently works at the University of North Texas as a teaching assistant, and at UNT’s ENGAGE program as a peer mentor for adults with autism who are transitioning from high school to college. In the lab, Bryn incorporates his musical passions into research: he is currently researching event-related potentials and the formation of complex auditory discrimination, with a focus on its application towards teaching absolute pitch. He is also interested in exploring critical periods of development and experience-dependent plasticity using a radical behaviorist framework. In his free time, Bryn enjoys playing the piano, embroidery, and spending quality time with his partner and their cat.

Current Projects
A Free-Operant Analysis of Event-Related Potentials

A relevant development in the study of brain-behavior relations comes from experiments that measure neural activity using Electroencephalography (EEG). In a technique called Event Related Potentials (ERPs), EEG activity is time-locked to experimentally relevant events, such as stimuli presented to the subject, thereby isolating specific neural responses of interest. A brain response distributed anteriorly on the human scalp, has been described as the P3A. The label derives from the response consisting of a positive peak, occurring at approximately 300ms post stimulus presentation. The P3A response is typically obtained in a discrete trial three stimulus oddball in which a frequent stimulus occasioning a response (target) is alternated with an infrequent stimulus (nontarget). A third kind of stimulus – unrelated to the task (e.g. a dog barking) is presented, originating a P3A response. The P3A has been interpreted in the past as a response indicative of “novelty processing” or of an orienting response (e.g. Wetzel, N., Schröger, E., & Widmann, A. 2013). While previous research on the P3A was carried out in discrete trial procedures, we opted for a a free operant procedure consisting of alternation of FR5 and VR5 schedules of reinforcement.

An ERP Investigation on Tinnitus and the Mismatch Negativity

Subjective tinnitus is a condition that is not fully understood, and as a result there are no diagnostic tests or completely efficacious treatments that can be used. The financial implications of this are particularly evident in the VA, where tinnitus is one of the top two service-connected disabilities, behind hearing loss, costing hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The test battery utilized in this study examines both exogenous and endogenous potentials to search for differences between tinnitus and matched non-tinnitus controls. This allows for a more complete evaluation of the auditory system, starting with the early evoked cortical potential, P1, and ending with the endogenous P300 potential. Identification of differences along the central auditory pathway, beginning at the cortical level, could also inspire research for treatment methods that target the cortical regions where differences exist. We hypothesize that individuals with tinnitus, compared to their matched controls without tinnitus, will exhibit differences in their ALR, MMN responses, and P300 responses when their pitch matched tinnitus frequency is incorporated into the test paradigm due to their inability to completely disengage from their perceived tinnitus. Specifically, an inability to completely disengage from their tinnitus is expected to result in reduced amplitudes.

Lab Alumni
Joshua Caldwell
Ryan Bugg

Ryan Bugg is a master’s candidate in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas. He works in the behavior analytic neuroscience labs at UNT, studying complex human behavior, physiological substrates of learning and behavior, and behavioral/neuroscientific measurement technologies with Drs. Daniele Ortu, Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, and April Becker. Before UNT, he studied secondary education and completed graduate-level coursework in behavior analysis at the University of Nevada, Reno. As a teacher, he has worked in a range of K-12 teaching positions in Nevada, Texas, and Taiwan at both public and private schools before returning to graduate school at UNT. Most recently, he was a teaching intern at Morningside Academy in Seattle, WA. His research concerns the application of free operant methods to neuroscience, using a combination of EEG and ERP technologies alongside schedules of reinforcement to better understand moment-to-moment changes in human behavior as a result of learning. 

Melanie Bauer

Rachel Krilcich

Rachel Krilcich, MS, received a Master’s degree in Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas in May of 2022 and a Bachelor’s degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy from Southern Illinois University- Carbondale in 2018.

During her time in the Neuroplasticity and Repertoire Restoration Lab, she has been able to build invaluable connections with esteemed faulty/staff and other colleagues. She assisted lab members in their thesis development, namely creating codes for apparatuses and constructing operant chambers. While assisting a fellow lab member, Rachel found reinforcement in researching response allocation, which lead to her thesis; titled: “Investigating the Effects of Teaching on Response Allocation by Implementing a Changing Criterion Procedure.”

As a lab member as the Neuro-Behavioral EEG Laboratory, Rachel researched the concept of resilience by providing a behavioral perspective for other behavior analysts. She presented her poster at ABAI 2022 and hopes to continue providing new ways to discuss resilience as a set of behaviors rather than an entity or “thing”.

Along with Behavioral neuroscience, she is most interested in Health, Sports, and Fitness, specifically the application of using ABA in injury prevention and skill refinement. She hopes to carry those passions along with her as she begins a new journey with Organization for Research and Learning (ORL) in Seattle, Washington.

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