||1R01CA240452-01A1 Interpret this number
||University Of Oregon
||Construal Level as a Novel Pathway for Affect Regulation and Cancer Control
7. Project Summary/Abstract
Lung cancer is the leading major cause of preventable death in the United States, and cigarette smoking is a
contributor to lung cancer in 80%–90% of cases. Though adult cigarette smoking rates have declined
substantially during the past 50 years, they remain as high as 30% in certain groups, such as individuals living
in poverty. Quitting is difficult: a given quit attempt results in cessation in fewer than 10% of cases, and most
adult cigarette smokers have attempted and failed to quit, and often many times. What is urgently needed are
novel interventions for cigarette smoking cessation that operate through different mechanisms from those
targeted by existing interventions, which are likely to have been unsuccessful for persistent smokers. A barrier
to progress is that the mechanisms of action of most treatments are not known, which makes it difficult to know
which treatment will work best for whom. We turn to affective science to identify a candidate technique that
could serve as the basis for a novel intervention. Research on affect regulation typically focuses on down-
regulation of affective states, such as craving for cigarettes, using effortful strategies such as cognitive
reappraisal. However, a new insight in affect regulation is that people can construe, or subjectively understand,
events with varying levels of abstraction, and that construing health-related behaviors in high- versus low-level
terms promotes health behavior in several domains. For example, smokers who want to quit are more likely to
resist a cigarette when they construe the same event (e.g., “abstinence”) in more abstract, high-level terms
(e.g., “becoming a better me”) versus more concrete, low-level terms (e.g., “not smoking this cigarette”). There
is some evidence that high-level construal might rely on distinct mechanisms from traditional affect regulation
and smoking reduction interventions, but its mechanisms of action are unknown. Directly comparing its
mechanisms to those of alternative affect regulation strategies and developing tools to induce high-level
construal are the next steps on the path toward developing a novel intervention. Also, establishing individual
differences in the effects of high-level construal will allow future interventions to be targeted to the individuals
for whom they will be maximally effective. We identified two candidate mechanisms through which high-level
construal might operate: down-regulation of craving and up-regulation of goal energization (i.e., motivation to
quit). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed the neural systems engaged by those processes
to be distinct. So, we will use multivariate analyses of fMRI data to quantify the similarity of high-level construal
to each candidate (Aim 1). This will be done in a longitudinal translational experiment with 4 conditions—high-
level construal, down-regulation of craving, up-regulation of goal energization, and treatment-as-usual—in a
sample of persistent smokers in poverty, who are the most likely to benefit from a novel, theory-based
treatment. The sample size (N = 240) affords an examination of individual differences in the effect of high-level
construal on neural activity and craving, and the degree to which they predict smoking reduction (Aim 2).
Multivariate neural signatures for health neuroscience: assessing spontaneous regulation during food choice.
, Zeithamova D.
, Stice E.
, Berkman E.T.
Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 2020-11-10; 15(10), p. 1120-1134.