The proposed program of research seeks to understand how the neural processes involved in basic goal pursuit processes are linked to the behavioral outcomes and phenomenological experience of real-world smoking cessation. In the proposed model, smoking cessation is a complex goal pursuit, occurring over months and years, that requires the coordination of many component processes. As such, neuroscience and social psychology have studied different aspects of smoking cessation. On one hand, neuroscience studies to date have made important contributions toward understanding component parts of smoking cessation (e.g. response inhibition, attention control), but have yet to clarify how those neural processes are related to everyday outcomes and experiences. On the other hand, social psychologists have focused on broad theories of everyday goal pursuit, but little is know about the associated neural systems. The proposed program of research seeks to link these two levels of analysis in two ways: first, by combining fMRI with experience sampling, and second, by bringing an approach-avoidance motivation theoretical framework that bridges both neural and behavioral research. Approach-avoidance motivation refers to the extent to which an individual, situation, or task is oriented toward approaching incentives and avoiding threats, and has been shown to be relevant goal pursuit at affective, cognitive, behavioral, and neural levels. In Experiment 1, participants who are smokers [ENROLLED IN A SMOKING CESSATION PROGRAM BUT WHO ARE NOT YET ABSTINENT] complete a basic goal pursuit task in the fMRI scanner. This task assess neural responses to various parts of the goal pursuit process such as goal representation, response inhibition, and progress monitoring, and has both approach and avoidance conditions. [EXPERIMENT 2 TRACKS THOSE SAME PARTICIPANTS DURING THEIR CESSATION ATTEMPT] for 14 days using personal digital assistants. Cigarette consumption and purchase is monitored eight times each day, along with affect and motivation to quit. The data collected in these two experiments is then analyzed together, using neural responses to predict later behavioral, emotional, and motivational outcomes. This approach achieves the project objectives by examining the impact of the neural systems examined in lab-based studies of goal pursuit on the outcomes of a real-world goal pursuit, and by brining an overarching theoretical perspective to the study of goal pursuit and smoking cessation.
The proposed studies advance scientific knowledge on the neural systems involved in smoking cessation, and their connection to behavioral outcomes during a quitting attempt. Results potentially inform quitting interventions and individual differences in quitting strategies.
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