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Show me the science! (1454 words)
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jvkohl
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Post: #1
Show me the science! (1454 words)
12-04-2011 5:12 PM

Excerpt "...you don't need to train fish to swim. And I think it would be as difficult to train them to play dead as it would be to train a dog to play dead by floating upside down in the water."
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Questions from a supporter of my model for classical conditioning of behavior recently turned to criticisms about my unwillingness to learn more about operant conditioning. I think that operant conditioning is simply training that has nothing to do with the biology of classically conditioned brain function. To me, the effects of operant conditioning are neural correlates of learning, which are not directly related to brain function and learning to respond to sensory input. Learning associated with brain function is learning that is dependent on a direct link from sensory cues to brain function. There is scientific evidence for this learning. For example: Fatal attraction phenomenon in humans - cat odour attractiveness increased for toxoplasma-infected men while decreased for infected women.

The protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii causes specific behavioral changes that represent a biologically-based adaptation by a parasite. This adaptation enhances the parasite's transmission from an intermediate host to a definitive host by predation. Rats lose their fear of predator odor and may become fatally attracted to the odor of the cats that ingest them. This facilitates the life cycle of the parasite. In studies of men and women, "Toxoplasma-infected and 134 non-infected students showed that the infected men rated odour of cat urine as more pleasant than did the non-infected men, while infected women rated the same odour as less pleasant than did non-infected women."

My comments on this study: Sex differences in the effect of odor on hormones and the subsequent affect of hormones on behavior are modeled in other animals. In fact there is a detailed link between sensory input and behavior assures us that odors directly effect hormones via genetically predisposed organization of environmentally activated pathways that affect behavior. No role for operant conditioning/training is indicated. And, without knowing anything more about operant conditioning, I could still pit it against what is known about the classical conditioning of hormone-driven behavioral responses by odors. This classical conditioning obviously occurs long before any animal can be trained to do tricks. If it doesn't occur from birth, no animal survives long enough to sexually reproduce, which means their species becomes extinct.

Given what is already known about odors and classical conditioning, it becomes clear that no training is required, presumably because the affect on behavior of the odor is due to its effect on brain function and learning. I say presumably because I have not seen any data for comparison that link effects of training directly to brain function and behavior in any species. Maybe effects of training are due to a pathway unknown to me that directly links training to brain function and affects on behavior, without incorporating sensory input from the environment. But that seems unlikely.

Until such data becomes known to me, I feel safe with the scientifically supported presumption that odors directly effect hormones, which is how they affect behavior, and I am equally comfortable with my beliefs about the explanatory power of biology. For example, I believe that the benefits of understanding the difference between unknown effects of training and known effects of odors on physiology and behavior extend across disciplines. This moves the understanding of biology forward to effects on biologically based brain function. The lack of this understanding was made clear with the moderator of the human ethology group re-titled a post: Human Pheromone Discovered That Attracts Women To Men. The data from this study, which the moderator cited as evidence for a human pheromone, was found in the article, which was appropriately titled to encourage discussion (see below).

Women Exposure to Pleasant Ambient Fragrance and Receptivity to a Man's Courtship Request clearly address findings from several studies that show pleasant ambient odor facilitates behavior. The effect of the ambient odor is explained by odor-induced mood changes, which have been confirmed. Sex differences in the effect have also been indicated. Now, we have, for example: "Young women agreed more likely to give their phone number to a young man when they were previously exposed to pleasant ambient odors." This result suggests that a large range of social behaviors could be influenced by ambient odors as indicated in the article. That influence of odors would not surprise most people, especially anyone who understands the role food odors and social odors play in the behavior of every other species on this planet.

Animal and human studies now indicate that adding pheromones to ambient odors enhances their effect (Do perfumes mask or interact with body odour? Lenochova et al., unpublished). The difference between effects of training and the affects of odor enhancement or pheromone enhancement on behavior is a big difference. Simply put, we know the pathway that directly links olfactory/pheromonal stimuli to changes in the brain and changes in behavior. That's why, instead of looking only at unexplained effects of odors on mood, research on human pheromones incorporates what has been learned from animal studies to show how both food odors and pheromones effect hormones that affect behavior. For example, the affect on behavior of human pheromones is an effect on brain function in other animals.

Whether it is called operant learning processes, training, or a learning process, operant conditioning has not been directly linked to brain function by any of its proponents. Is everyone else content to keep trying to train humans to behave as they would train other animals? How's that working for you? I think it makes more sense to learn about brain function and behavior for discussion in a human ethology group. The stated purpose of the group is "...the study of the biology of human behavior..." It is not for the study of how people can be trained to do pet tricks.

When, for example, do human ethologists get to discuss what is understood about the biology of behavior, as opposed to the discussion of training, definitions, theories, and mere conceptualizations devoid of scientific support? I've been a contributor to the group for nearly five years, and am about to lose my patience with a few folks. SHOW ME THE SCIENCE! Do not expect me to learn to understand nonsensical beliefs in the effects of training simply because you believe in something called operant conditioning.

An antagonist has since correctly indicated that training is not directly linked to any brainfunction, which is what I was trying to convey. He is also correct in stating "There aren't many "big picture" ideas out there...". From a biological perspective, there is only one: it's the direct link between sensory input and behavior in all species via an evolved gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ-system pathway, like the one found in mammals. Simon LeVay addressed this in his 2010 book, on page 210: "This [Kohl's] model is attractive in that it solves the "binding problem" of sexual attraction. By that I mean the problem of why all the different features of men or women (visual appearance and feel of face, body, and genitals; voice quality, smell; personality and behavior, etc.) attract people as a more or less coherent package representing one sex, rather than as an arbitrary collage of male and female characteristics." If all these characteristics come to be attractive because they were experienced in association with a male- or female-specific pheromone, then they will naturally go together even in the absence of complex genetically coded instructions."

The big picture begins to form when you realize you must first link a sensory stimulus to gene activation. Perhaps what's missing in my antagonist's response is knowledge of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) modulated organization of the brain and the direct effects of olfactory/pheromonal input on GnRH and behavior. Did he simply decide not to learn about the biological core of mammalian reproduction (i.e., the hypothalamic GnRH pulse) and decide instead to focus on training animals instead of on brain function?

He writes about "behavioral laws that behavior analysis provides". What are they? I suspect they may have been previously provided along with evidence that the behavior of the organisms he's playing with has allowed them to survive and be trained to do whatever he can train them to do. But that suspicion is based on my knowledge of biology, which includes knowledge that you don't need to train fish to swim. And I think it would be as difficult to train them to play dead as it would be to train a dog to play dead by floating upside down in the water.

The understanding of biology suggests to me there are limits of operant conditioning that depend on biology and brain function. But there are extreme differences in how much longer it may take to understand the link between sensory input and behavior. My antagonist suggests it may take another 100 years. That might be the case if everyone continues to ignore current neuroscientific evidence.

James V. Kohl
Clinical Laboratory Scientist (ASCLS)
Medical Laboratory Scientist (ASCP)
Medical Technologist (AMT)
Author/Creator: The Scent of Eros
12-04-2011 5:12 PM
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2Soon2Care
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RE: Show me the science! (1454 words)
12-05-2011 1:44 AM

Sounds like the phenotype v genotype issues, not completely understanding why something looks the way it does. I don't expect behaviorist to get all the biology, but they really have a "black box" to explain when they limit themselves by omitting the biology. Sounds like there are some bridges between the disciplines that need to be built! Perhaps some conferences specifically including both groups to force them to discuss and find common ground?

I'll spray anything apparently...
12-05-2011 1:44 AM
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jvkohl
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Post: #3
RE: Show me the science! (1454 words)
12-05-2011 8:21 AM

My antagonists continue their attempts to convince me that I need to learn more about operant conditioning. I'm resisting their suggestions to learn anything about how to train an organism to respond to sensory input it might typically never encounter.

I can't see the importance of operant conditioning to understanding the biology of behavior because their training occurs after the behavior has already been conditioned to occur in response to sensory input that every organism encounters: chemical stimuli.

A meeting of the minds is a great suggestion, but first the behaviorists need to demonstrate that they are not out of their minds when it comes to the biology of behavior.

James V. Kohl
Clinical Laboratory Scientist (ASCLS)
Medical Laboratory Scientist (ASCP)
Medical Technologist (AMT)
Author/Creator: The Scent of Eros
12-05-2011 8:21 AM
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RE: Show me the science! (1454 words)
12-05-2011 9:00 PM

Hmm I wonder if the behaviorists have been conditioned into being out of their minds.. Maybe a roomful of them just needs to get a motherload of pheromone dosing to demonstrate to them how puny their cortexes are when pitted against the more primitive brain structures in full response heheheh

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12-05-2011 9:00 PM
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RE: Show me the science! (1454 words)
12-05-2011 10:46 PM

That seems to be an accurate assessment. Behaviorists may simply not understand unconscious affect. Perhaps they believe if they cannot think through what is happening then it really isn't happening.

"I did not have sex with that women!" for example. It was the primitive brain structure in full response that had the unthinkable sex with the woman, and the mind of the man got caught, as is typical.

James V. Kohl
Clinical Laboratory Scientist (ASCLS)
Medical Laboratory Scientist (ASCP)
Medical Technologist (AMT)
Author/Creator: The Scent of Eros
12-05-2011 10:46 PM
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RE: Show me the science! (1454 words)
12-05-2011 11:56 PM

Yes I'm really picking up on a thread here that amounts to cognitive dissonance - how can a behaviorist rationalize behaviours that are taking place at such a basic level that they can't quantify or qualify the actions without realizing the hormonal and neurological modulations at play - like asking a blind man to describe a color, he's never seen it and has no frame of reference. I think a primer in the basics of the modulator, maybe coming from a systemics perspective might give *some* behaviorists a set of operational building blocks to start piecing together a picture of what is occurring, and they would have to accept that their higher cognitive "learning" modalities ride atop the biological underpinnings. A good example - male POWs who were starved did not exhibit any sexual response when nude women were paraded before them to torture them psychologically. Hunger is more powerful than sexual impulse, and a host of hormones are at play when someone is starved. So no matter what psychosexual social "conditioning" was in place, the biology of the situation rendered them incapable of response.

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12-05-2011 11:56 PM
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jvkohl
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Post: #7
RE: Show me the science! (1454 words)
12-06-2011 9:54 PM

One antagonist has since written: "that 1.) supplying alternative reinforcers is probably the single most successful addiction therapy

Of course no evidence for this is cited and it is antithetical to the recently published policy statement by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Your mention of hunger and physiology is pertinent with regard to my recently completed submission to Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology on food odors and social odors.

James V. Kohl
Clinical Laboratory Scientist (ASCLS)
Medical Laboratory Scientist (ASCP)
Medical Technologist (AMT)
Author/Creator: The Scent of Eros
12-06-2011 9:54 PM
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RE: Show me the science! (1454 words)
12-08-2011 1:23 AM

Excellent, hope it will be well received! I poked around for a bit to find references to that, but they seem to be elusive given all the focus on torture in the middle east recently. The starved POWs seem to have been Viet Cong, and it was years ago I read about this. You may have better luck on a LEXIS-NEXUS search if you have access for references if you have interest in chasing it down.

Yeah I see what you mean, not quite the same, they are evidently proposing something different from ASAM :

ASAM Defintion of Additiction : Recovery from addiction is best achieved through a combination of self-management, mutual support, and professional care provided by trained and certified professionals.

The antogonist doesn't apparently agree with the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky Nora Volkow who is the neuroscientist Director in charge of NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse). In an interview on NPR she indicated that peer pressure was the most effective. An interesting article on her :
https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/scien...wanted=all

My brother is an addict, so treatments for addiction to cocaine, painkillers, alcohol, and amphetamines are some subjects I've done research on in the past.

From a NIDA brochure : https://drugabuse.gov/researchreports/me...hamph.html


Quote:What treatments
are effective for
methamphetamine
abusers?

At this time, the most
effective treatments for
methamphetamine addic-
tion are behavioral therapies
such as cognitive behavioral
and contingency management
interventions. For example, the
Matrix Model, a comprehensive
behavioral treatment approach
that combines behavioral therapy,
family education, individual
counseling, 12-Step support,
drug testing, and encouragement
for nondrug-related activities,
has been shown to be effective
in reducing methamphetamine
abuse. Contingency management
interventions, which provide
tangible incentives in exchange
for engaging in treatment and
maintaining abstinence, have
also been shown to be effective.
There are currently no specific
medications that counteract the
effects of methamphetamine or
that prolong abstinence from and
reduce the abuse of metham-
phetamine by an individual
addicted to the drug. However,
there are a number of medica-
tions that are FDA-approved for
other illnesses that might also be
useful in treating methampheta-
mine addiction. Recent study
findings reveal that bupropion,
the anti-depressant marketed
as Wellbutrin, reduced the
methamphetamine-induced
"high" as well as drug cravings
elicited by drug-related cues.
This medication and others are
currently in clinical trials, while
new compounds are being
developed and studied in
preclinical models.

I'll spray anything apparently...
12-08-2011 1:23 AM
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