2015: Valdeep Saini

University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute

Valdeep Saini is a doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute under the supervision of Dr. Wayne Fisher. Val’s research interests are primarily centered on the translation of basic operant phenomena to areas of social importance, specific to the assessment and treatment of severe behavior disorders. The 2015 Innovative Student Research Dissertation Grant will assist Val in heading three studies that use behavioral momentum theory (BMT) to evaluate the variables that promote and diminish treatment relapse during and following noncontingent reinforcement (NCR). Using a human-operant preparation and guided by Shahan and Sweeney’s (2011) model of resurgence based on BMT, Val has proposed three refinements to NCR designed to mitigate treatment relapse and promote enduring treatment gains. In Study 1, Val will evaluate procedures designed to increase the salience of the change from contingent reinforcement to NCR. Increasing the discriminability between contingent and noncontingent reinforcement should lead to faster reductions in destructive behavior and decrease the likelihood of relapse. In Study 2, Val will gradually expose the target behavior to increasingly long periods of extinction in which neither contingent nor noncontingent reinforcement is available to determine the extent to which gradual exposure to extinction mitigates relapse relative to an abrupt exposure to extinction. In Study 3, Val will evaluate whether NCR implemented with versus without extinction will reduce the likelihood of relapse. Preliminary findings of these studies are consistent with what BMT would predict about behavioral persistence and treatment relapse during and following NCR. Determining whether and to what degree these refinements of NCR are accurate is critically important because NCR is one of the most commonly prescribed interventions for destructive behavior.Minimizing persistent destructive behavior and treatment relapse are crucial for long-term positive outcomes in children who engage in destructive behavior, and BMT provides guidance on how to mitigate treatment relapse. Val continues to use BMT as a conceptual framework to investigate methods for improving NCR. These findings may be important for both behavioral research and clinical practice. 


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