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Clinical translation of animal models of treatment relapse


  • This research was conducted as partial fulfillment of the first author's Ph.D. degree in psychology at Bangor University. Preparation of this article was supported in part by NICHD 064576.


Behavioral Momentum Theory (BMT) has inspired animal models of treatment relapse. We translated the models of reinstatement and resurgence into clinical procedures to test whether relapse tests would replicate behavior pattern found in basic research. Following multiple schedule baseline reinforcement of a 16-year-old male's problem behavior at equal rates by two therapists, treatment was introduced using a variable-interval, variable-time (VI VT) schedule arrangement with therapists delivering reinforcers at different rates. Despite the differing rates of VI VT reinforcers, the treatment produced comparable reductions in problem behavior. Following successful treatment, the two therapists discontinued treatment and resumed reinforcement of problem behavior at equal rates that constituted a reinstatement of baseline conditions. As predicted by BMT, reinstatement resulted in an immediate return of high rates of problem behavior but was 2.6 times higher for the therapist using the higher rate VI VT treatment. A second treatment phase was implemented followed by a test of resurgence in a single extended extinction session conducted separately for each therapist. The unequal VI VT treatment rates by therapists resulted in 2.1 times greater responding in the resurgence test for the therapist who implemented the higher rate VI VT procedure. These results are consistent with basic research studies and BMT.