Date of Award

12-2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Second Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Pietras

Third Advisor

Dr. Amanda M. Mahoney

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

Since 2007, giant African pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus) have been used successfullyfor detecting Tuberculosis (TB) positive patients.The rats are trained to detect TB-positive sputum samples through the use of operant conditioning techniques, in which an indicator response is rewarded with food. If the rats are to be used for first line screening of patients reinforcement could not be provided because the true status of the sample would be unknown. The present study evaluated the effects of a reinforcement-for-agreement procedure that could be used to reinforce indication responses when the true status of the sample is unknown. Four rats evaluated 100 sputum samples per session under two phases of the study: baseline and the reinforcement-for-agreement phase. During the reinforcement for agreement phase two rats evaluated samples under extinction and the remaining two rats evaluated the same samples and were rewarded only if they indicated on samples that both the first two rats made an indication response. Sensitivity and specificity rates did not greatly differ between the two conditions. These findings suggest that the reinforcement-for-agreement procedure may be a tenable option to use during first line screening or in areas in which other diagnostic methods are unavailable.

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