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Grant Details

Grant Number: 4R01CA180015-04 Interpret this number
Primary Investigator: Falk, Emily
Organization: University Of Pennsylvania
Project Title: Pqa - 3: Neural Predictors of Receptivity to Health Communication and Behavior Ch
Fiscal Year: 2016


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Promoting physical activity and decreasing sedentary behavior are key goals in the fight against cancers; physical activity is associated with lower risk of several cancers [1-10], and lower overall morbidity and mortality [11-26]. Thus, theory-driven initiatives to change these behaviors are essential [1-10, 26-40]. PQ#3 highlights the necessity for new perspectives on the interplay of cognitive and emotional factors in promoting behavior change. Current theories, which focus primarily on predictors derived from self-report measures, do not fully predict behavior change. For example, recent meta-analyses suggest that on average, variables from the Theory of Planned Behavior account for ~27% of the variance in behavior change [41, 42]. This limits our ability to design optimally effective interventions [43], and invites new methods that may explain additional variance. Our team has shown that neural activation in response to health messages in hypothesized neural regions of interest can double the explained variance in behavior change, above and beyond self-reports of attitudes, intentions, and self-efficacy [44, 45]. We now propose a next leap, inspired by PQ3, to identify how cognitive and affective processes interact in the brain to influence and predict behavior change. Our core hypothesis is that the balance of neural activity in regions associated with self-related processing versus defensive counterarguing is key in producing health behavior change, and that self-affirmation (an innovative approach, relatively new to the health behavior area [46]) can alter this balance. Self-affirmation theory [47] posits that people are motivated to maintain a sense of self-worth, and that threats to self-worth will be met with resistance, often i the form of counterarguing. One common threat to self-worth occurs when people are confronted with self-relevant health messages (e.g. encouraging less sedentary behavior in overweight, sedentary adults). This phenomenon speaks to a classic and problematic paradox: those at highest risk are likely to be most defensive and least open to altering cancer risk behaviors [48]. A substantial, and surprisingly impressive, body of evidence demonstrates that affirmation of core-values (self-affirmation priming) preceding messages can reduce resistance and increase intervention effectiveness [46, 49-53]. Uncovering neural mechanisms of such affirmation effects [46], has transformative potential for intervention design and selection. To test our conceptual assumptions and core hypothesis we will: (1) Identify neural signals associated with processing health messages as self-relevant versus counterarguing; (2) Test whether self-affirmation alters the balance of these signals; (3) Use these neural signals to predict physical activity behavior change, above and beyond what is predicted by self-report measures alone. Our approach is innovative methodologically (using fMRI to understand and predict behavior change), and conceptually (self-affirmation may dramatically increase intervention effectiveness). Benchmarks will include objectively measured decreases in sedentary behavior in affirmed vs. control subjects (using accelerometers), and increases in predictive capacity afforded by neuroimaging methods, compared to self-report alone.


Neural Mechanisms of Attitude Change Toward Stigmatized Individuals: Temporoparietal Junction Activity Predicts Bias Reduction.
Authors: Kang Y. , Falk E.B. .
Source: Mindfulness, 2020 Jun; 11(6), p. 1378-1389.
EPub date: 2020-03-17.
PMID: 33343763
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Marital status, living arrangements, and mortality in middle and older age in Europe.
Authors: Zueras P. , Rutigliano R. , Trias-Llimós S. .
Source: International journal of public health, 2020 Jun; 65(5), p. 627-636.
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Source: Current opinion in psychology, 2019 08; 28, p. 115-119.
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Purpose in life and conflict-related neural responses during health decision-making.
Authors: Kang Y. , Strecher V.J. , Kim E. , Falk E.B. .
Source: Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 2019 Jun; 38(6), p. 545-552.
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Persuasion and influence: what makes a successful persuader?
Authors: Baek E.C. , Falk E.B. .
Source: Current opinion in psychology, 2018 12; 24, p. 53-57.
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Effects of self-transcendence on neural responses to persuasive messages and health behavior change.
Authors: Kang Y. , Cooper N. , Pandey P. , Scholz C. , O'Donnell M.B. , Lieberman M.D. , Taylor S.E. , Strecher V.J. , Dal Cin S. , Konrath S. , et al. .
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2018-10-02; 115(40), p. 9974-9979.
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Development and validation of the Single Item Trait Empathy Scale (SITES).
Authors: Konrath S. , Meier B.P. , Bushman B.J. .
Source: Journal of research in personality, 2018 04; 73, p. 111-122.
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Associations between coherent neural activity in the brain's value system during antismoking messages and reductions in smoking.
Authors: Cooper N. , Tompson S. , O'Donnell M.B. , Vettel J.M. , Bassett D.S. , Falk E.B. .
Source: Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 2018 04; 37(4), p. 375-384.
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Persuasion, Influence, and Value: Perspectives from Communication and Social Neuroscience.
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Self-Transcendent Values and Neural Responses to Threatening Health Messages.
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Dispositional Mindfulness Predicts Adaptive Affective Responses to Health Messages and Increased Exercise Motivation.
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Coherent activity between brain regions that code for value is linked to the malleability of human behavior.
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Political orientation moderates worldview defense in response to Osama bin Laden's death.
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Source: Peace and conflict : journal of peace psychology : the journal of the Division of Peace Psychology of the American Psychological Association, 2016 Nov; 22(4), p. 396-400.
EPub date: 2016-06-13.
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Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation.
Authors: Cascio C.N. , O'Donnell M.B. , Tinney F.J. , Lieberman M.D. , Taylor S.E. , Strecher V.J. , Falk E.B. .
Source: Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 2016 Apr; 11(4), p. 621-9.
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Self-affirmation alters the brain's response to health messages and subsequent behavior change.
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