PhD in ADHD and Behavioral Analysis


I apologise for the lack of papers this year so far, but I recently moved to Oslo, Norway to start a PhD.

The PhD in question is about ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), more specifically about an animal model used to find new knowledge about the condition. This model is called SHR (Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat), and these particular rats share several common characteristics with ADHD patients. Therefore, behavioral experiments are conducted on rats in order to learn more about the condition, as well as how to treat it better. This model has been researched extensively over the last 20 years or so, and is regarded as the leading animal model of ADHD.

In short, my PhD is a review of the model as a whole. I will go through each characteristic of ADHD that the SHR model is supposed to reflect, and determine its efficacy and validity. This includes, where possible, meta-analyses documenting whether any perceived similarities between the humans and rats are actually genuine.

This PhD could be classified under many different umbrellas, such as Health Psychology, Animal Behaviour, or Applied Psychology. However, officially the PhD is under Behaviour Analysis, a subdiscipline of psychology, which is relatively small. Behaviour Analysts follow a philosophy called behaviourism, which originated from researchers such as Skinner, Watson, and Pavlov. It is a field where reinforcement and the external environment is emphasised, and internal states are generally avoided. This is quite a change from my previous field, which would be cognitive evolutionary psychology, but that is why I find it so interesting. As someone with a background in cognitive psychology, it is very interesting to be in a room with people who generally are not concerned with cognition at all. Of course, doing a PhD on ADHD, my research will inevitably involve some cognitive aspects, though the animal model I am reviewing primarily uses behavioural principles. I will elaborate on this in later posts.

This PhD was started in February this year, though I did not receive formal approval for the project until May. I had a trial by fire, as I presented a talk on the benefits and limitations of animal models as early as April 25th, at the annual Norwegian Behavior Analytic Society (NAFO) Seminar.

Me at the NAFO Seminar at Storefjell, Norway, May 9th.

Me at the NAFO Seminar at Storefjell, Norway, May 9th.

The PhD is four years, as it includes 25% lecture duties. In addition to my research, I am the module coordinator and head lecturer of a module called “Selection Sciences”. This is a module which primarily focuses on evolution and natural selection. I will be teaching multiple classes on evolutionary biology, animal behaviour, and evolutionary psychology, while other lecturers will focus on cultural selection and philosophy and evolution.

I am very happy at my new workplace and thoroughly enjoy my PhD. Oslo is also a great city, with lots to do (like the Reptile House, pictured) and nice people. I hope to be more active on the blog in the future, and you can expect posts related to the PhD project.

Reptile House

Have a great summer!

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