Examination of alternative-response discrimination training and resurgence in rats

Abstract

Resurgence is an increase in a previously reinforced behavior following a worsening of conditions for a more recently reinforced behavior. Discrimination training is incorporated into treatment for problem behavior to prevent treatment adherence failures that may result in resurgence. There is evidence that resurgence may be reduced when a stimulus that signals alternative-response extinction is present compared with absent; however, the generality of this effect is unknown given the limited testing conditions. The goal of the present experiments was to further examine the effects of such stimuli in a reverse-translational evaluation using rats. Target responding was reinforced in baseline and then placed on extinction in the following discrimination-training phase. An alternative response was differentially reinforced in a two-component multiple schedule where one stimulus (i.e., SD) signaled alternative-response reinforcement and the other (i.e., SΔ) signaled extinction. Experiment 1 assessed resurgence in both the SΔ and SD when alternative reinforcement was removed. Experiment 2 evaluated resurgence under conditions that better approximated those used in the clinic in which the alternative-response SΔ was present or absent. The SΔ failed to suppress target responding during resurgence testing in both experiments. These findings suggest that the conditions under which an alternative-response SΔ will successfully mitigate resurgence may be limited and require further research.

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Data availability

Data are available from the first author upon request. Experiments have not been preregistered.

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Author note

This research fulfilled partial requirements of the first author’s Doctor of Philosophy degree from Utah State University. This work was funded in part by Grant R01HD093734 (T.A.S.) from the Eunice K. Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and Utah State University’s College of Education and Human Services Graduate Student Research Award. The authors would like to thank Gregory Madden, Katherine Brown, Timothy Slocum, and Michael Twohig for advising on this research. K.O.B. is now at the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health at the University of Vermont.

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Browning, K.O., Shahan, T.A. Examination of alternative-response discrimination training and resurgence in rats. Learn Behav (2021). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-021-00470-9

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Keywords

  • Resurgence
  • Discriminative stimulus
  • Operant behavior
  • Discrimination training
  • Rats