Behavioral Research Blog

Behavioral video analysis supports Rett syndrome research

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Nov 25, 2014 2:00:00 PM

Rett syndrome (RTT) is a severe progressive neurodevelopmental disorder. It affects girls almost exclusively and is characterized by normal early growth and development followed by a slowing of development, loss of purposeful use of the hands, distinctive hand movements, slowed brain and head growth, problems with walking, seizures, and intellectual disability (Rett Syndrome Fact Sheet, 2014). In the study discussed in this blog post, the researchers indicated that normal cooing and babbling were absent in the first two years of life. They also observed finger movements and found that they occurred sporadically with limited variability. Let us zoom in on this original article published in the Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, parent-child interaction

Picky cats and tasty food – sniffing is an indicator for tastiness

Posted by Olga Krips on Nov 20, 2014 9:30:00 AM

Picky cats

Any cat owner will acknowledge the fact that cats can be extremely stubborn. They let you hear loud and clear that they want to come in, but when you open the door, they just sit at the doorstep and stare at you. And they can be extremely picky when it comes to food. If the cat doesn’t like it, it will refuse to eat. Reason enough for the pet food industry to try to find out what cats really like.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, coding schemes, cats

Health care education and research

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Nov 7, 2014 11:00:00 AM

The use of video feedback is well established and encouraged in the world of health care education and research. Clinical encounters, behavioral protocols, and doctor-patient interactions can be evaluated. Video recording also enables the assessment of communication in great detail.

Evelien Spelten and colleagues set forth to gain insight into the midwife-client interaction in relation to the quality of care provided by midwives. Focusing on the first antenatal consultation, their study describes the introduction of video recording in midwifery practices for research purposes, the coding process, and the resulting dataset.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, medical encounter

A mathematical genius..? What parents can do

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Sep 16, 2014 12:47:44 PM

In a recent study, Dr. Joanne Lee and colleagues from Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada, investigated early mathematics learning during the first 3 years of life. Because numerous studies already provide evidence of the importance of gesture use, Lee and her team specially focused on examining specific types of gestures produced by parents in math-related talk.

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Topics: The Observer XT, on-site research, video observation, parent-child interaction

Mixing sows: the aggression and stress of group housing on first-time sow mother

Posted by Julie Harrison on Sep 4, 2014 2:00:00 PM

Social order is an important part of many animal species’ lives. Social aggression helps determine hierarchy of the animals and which animals are pushed to the bottom of the pecking order. Pigs are mixed into new social groups throughout various stages of production. Therefore, their hierarchies have the opportunity to change numerous times during their lives. In this experiment, Ison and colleagues looked at the social interaction when a mixed group of primiparous and older, unfamiliar sows were placed in group housing together.

Why group housing?

Pig farmers can choose to use either independent or group housing for their pregnant sows, however in recent years, there has been a push towards group housing. This is due to the fact that in group housing, sows are able to perform more normal behavior than they are in individual stalls. In Europe, gestation stalls can only be used for up to four weeks after breeding. In group housing, sows are able to move around freely. In this experiment, the gilts, female pigs who had never given birth before, were kept with other gilts until the most recently bred pig had reached 39 days of gestation. Then half of each of the primiparous groups (first-time mothers) was selected and mixed with multiparous sows for a week. After this week, they went back to their home pens. A week later, they were mixed with other multiparous sows for a week, before moving back to their home pens once again. This experiment reflects how often switching can occur in the social group groups of pigs throughout production.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, pigs, aggression, farm animals

5 examples of research on adolescence

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Sep 2, 2014 11:30:00 AM

A couple of months ago, the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence attracted many researchers from all over the world, all interested in adolescent behavior. On this blog, we’ve dedicated a number of posts to recent projects (educational research, research on adolescence). Interested? Check out five examples below!

1) Adolescent Motherhood – observing mother-infant behavior

Current research from Prof. Cristina Riva Crugnola, University of Milano-Bicocca tells us that adolescent mothers as well as their babies (vs. adult mother and infant interactions) spent more time in negative engagement, meaning that the mothers showed more pushy behaviors towards the infant, even hostility. The infant also showed more negative behaviors, such as protesting with expressions of anger and crying. Riva Crugnola and colleagues state that it is important to train skills and competence in adolescent mother-infant interaction by setting up prevention programs. Young mothers should be supported in learning how to be a mother and regulating emotions (in particular, negative ones). Also, timing is everything - the researchers explain that it is also important to start preventive intervention in the first months of life.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, classroom observation software, adolescent behavior

What a horse likes to eat: how to test dietary preferences

Posted by Julie Harrison on Aug 25, 2014 2:00:00 PM

When humans are given a choice of food, we usually go for the best-tasting option. Animals also have a preference in which food they eat, although theirs is not based on taste necessarily, but on nutritional value. This choice feeding can be used to learn more about an animal’s nutritional needs and dietary preferences. However, in animals such as horses, there is a long gut transit time, which means that the horse may have difficulty making the connection between which chosen food has which nutritional consequence. So what can be done about this? Redgate and colleagues looked into the addition of a monadic phase (a phase in which only one food was offered at a time instead of all of the options) to choice testing. For this study, researchers wanted to see how a monadic training phase would impact the horse’s choice of food and if voluntary intake and feeding behavior would be influenced if the energy content was constant, but the macronutrient diet was different.

The experiment

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Topics: The Observer XT, horses, feeding behavior,

Through the looking glass: the accuracy of measuring fish aggression by using mirror tests

Posted by Julie Harrison on Aug 18, 2014 9:00:00 AM

When we look into a mirror, we see a reflection of ourselves. As humans, we are aware that this is only a reflection and not actually another living person. However, very few animal species are able to acknowledge that their reflection is not another one of their species which could pose a threat to them. Capuchin monkeys, grey parrots, and elephants are among the few that are able to recognize their mirror image. A majority of animal species, including fish, treat the image in the mirror as a conspecific. As a result, it would make sense that a mirror test could be a good indicator of aggression, especially in fish. However, Valentina Balzarini and colleagues questioned this widespread method, noting recent studies which had shown that hormonal and gene expression responses differed between the fish being exposed to a conspecific or a reflection of itself.

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Topics: The Observer XT, fish

The relationship between food scarcity and caching in fox squirrels

Posted by Julie Harrison on Aug 12, 2014 12:00:00 PM

We’ve all seen squirrels carrying acorns around in their mouths and burying them in the ground. This is a way to hoard food, and most squirrels use a strategy called scatter-hoarding. Instead of storing all of their excess food in one spot for easy access later, squirrels spread their food around in so many different caches that it is hard to believe they could find all of the spots again later. However, a squirrel has a choice to make when it comes across a food item – will it cache it and save it for later or will the squirrel eat it right there? Several factors play into this, such as quality, perishability, and scarcity. Mikel Delgado et al. studied how these different factors had an impact on the food-storing decisions of adult fox squirrels.

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Topics: The Observer XT, foraging behavior

STEM learning between caregiver and child in a museum

Posted by Julie Harrison on Aug 7, 2014 12:00:00 PM

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why? Without realizing it ourselves, our choices in the future can be determined by our pasts and the interests that were fostered when we were children. This can be important especially in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and fields because there are not enough people pursuing careers and opportunities in these fields to meet the demands. Catherine Haden and colleagues studied how effective a facilitated educational program in a children’s museum was for promoting conversations between caregiver and child and teaching the child about STEM subjects.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, parent-child interaction

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