Current Research


Current Research

An evaluation of an interdependent group contingency and mystery motivators in an inclusive preschool classroom.

courtemanche-palmer-turner-300x183.jpgPalmer, F., Courtemanche, A.B., & Turner, L. (2017, March). An evaluation of an interdependent group contingency and mystery motivators in an inclusive preschool classroom. Poster presented at the 13th annual Connecticut Association for Behavior Analysis conference, Hartford, CT.

Preschool children may engage in disruptive behaviors that interfere with the learning environment. An interdependent group contingency is one type of intervention that has been effective at decreasing disruptive behaviors in a number of populations and settings. The present study evaluated the effects of an interdependent group contingency on the frequency disruptive behaviors in an inclusive preschool classroom. Additionally, we sought to evaluate whether the effects of the group contingency were enhanced when the potential rewards that the students could earn were not announced to the preschool children (i.e., mystery motivator). Sixteen preschool children (3-5 years of age), including two children with autism, participated. The current study used an ABCACBC reversal design to evaluate the effects of two different interdependent group contingencies: signaled rewards (children were aware of the potential reward) and mystery motivators (students were not aware of the potential reward) on disruptive behavior. We also assessed the preschool children’s preference for the experimental conditions. Disruptive behavior occurred at lower levels during both interdependent group contingency phases compared to baseline. When surveyed, 80% of the preschool children preferred the mystery motivator phase. The results of this study suggest that interdependent group contingencies with mystery motivators may be an easy and effective intervention for preschool teachers to implement.

Student or teacher selected tasks and its effects on on-task behavior.

groskreutz-nadeau-courtemanche-300x183.jpgNadeau, B., Courtemanche, A.B., & Groskreutz, N. (2017, March). Student or teacher selected tasks and its effects on on-task behavior. Poster presented at the 13th annual Connecticut Association for Behavior Analysis conference, Hartford, CT. Awarded: Exceptional Contribution to Behavior Analytic Research in Applied Context Award.

Researchers have demonstrated that incorporating choice opportunities (e.g., choice of materials, choice of reinforcers, and choice of activity) has been effective at increasing on-task behavior in students with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of incorporating choice opportunities during independent work times on on-task behavior in an elementary-aged student with autism. We recruited one participant (age 7), diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who was frequently off task during independent academic work. Using a reversal design, on-task behavior was measured under two conditions: student choice (i.e., student choose the task to complete) and teacher choice (i.e., teacher chose task for student to complete). Following the evaluation of the experimental conditions, we assessed the participant’s preference for the experimental conditions. On-task behavior was consistently at higher levels during the student choice conditions compared to the teacher choice conditions. Additionally, when the participant was asked to choose between the student and teacher conditions, the participant chose student choice on 100% of opportunities. Taken together, these results indicate that choice of work task was not only an effective intervention at increasing on-task behavior, but it was also shown to be a potentially preferred intervention for the participant.

Perceived stress, impulsive decision making, and procedural fidelity in staff members.

courtemanche-eaves-300x183.jpgMacDougall Eaves, K., Courtemanche, A.B., & Brewer, A. (2017, March). Perceived stress, impulsive decision making, and procedural fidelity in staff members. Poster presented at the 13th annual Connecticut Association for Behavior Analysis conference, Hartford, CT. Awarded: Excellence in Empirical Design Award.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often present with challenging behaviors that require the implementation of behavior intervention plans. Best practices suggest that behavior plans should be implemented with a high degree of procedural fidelity. Many factors, however, may affect the degree to which a plan is implemented with integrity (e.g., training, motivation, complexity, time required, and acceptability). Two variables that might affect procedural fidelity are staff members’ perceived stress levels and the degree to which they engage in impulsive decision making. The current study sought to investigate the relationships between perceived stress, impulsive decision making (measured via delay discounting), and procedural fidelity to behavior intervention plans or management guidelines in staff members working one-to-one with children with ASD. Staff members filled out a Likert-style rating scale reporting their daily stressors (i.e., Daily Stress Index), completed a computer programmed questionnaire discounting hypothetical monetary rewards, and were scored on their procedural fidelity to behavior reduction plans while working with students with ASD during their normal work day. Results of a Spearman Correlation demonstrated a negative correlation between impulsive decision making and procedural fidelity, a negative correlation between impulsive decision making and stress, and a positive correlation between procedural fidelity and stress. These results, while preliminary, present information of significance for staff members and supervisors working with this population.

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the metastasis of cancer

kent-caitlin-research-300x138.jpgCaitlin Kent ’15 led by faculty member Irene Reed, Ph.D. investigated the role of specific genes in the development and progression of endometrial cancer. Their work focused on the role of a process called epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the metastasis of cancer, which is the spread of the disease from the primary site to other organs. Metastasis is responsible for the majority (90%) of cancer-related deaths, therefore understanding the genetic cues that activate this process may lead to novel biomarkers or therapeutics for cancer.

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Stigma associated with mental illness

joerg-samantha-research-300x138.jpgSamantha Joerg ’16, led by faculty mentor Kristin Henkel Cistulli, Ph.D., researched the stigma associated with mental illness. The purpose of their study was to explore the participants’ reactions to finding out that a friend has a mental illness. They hypothesized that participants would have more negative reactions to finding out about their friend because of what is known about the stigma.

  • Read the complete study.

MinION Access Program (MAP)

renzullo-stephanie-research-300x138.jpgStephanie Renzullo’14, M’17 led by faculty mentor Derek Dube, Ph.D., are involved in the MinION Access Program (MAP). MAP is a program organized through Oxford Nanopore, a company that has developed a novel next generation sequencing technology that increases DNA read length, while decreasing the cost, size, and time associated with other next generation sequencing technologies.

  • Learn more about Stephanie’s research and view her Symposium day oral presentations.

Two projects for undergraduate grant recipient

bill-ashley-research-300x138.jpgAshley Bill ’17 is currently working under the supervision of Doreen Szollosi, Ph.D., and Ola Ghoneim, Ph.D., at the Pharmaceutical Sciences Laboratory, School of Pharmacy. Ashley is the recipient of one of the USJ Undergraduate Grants for 2015-2016, sponsored by the Provost’s Office, and is presently making a great progress on the following two projects: Novel piperazino-enaminone derivatives to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines and inhibit chemokine receptor CCR2; and a hands-on experiment to enhance student learning on nucleophilic aromatic substitution reactions.

  • Read the complete studies.

Why There's a Need for a "Cure" for Autism Spectrum Disorder

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