Project Overview +

This study explores whether listening to high-tailored smoking cessation messages activates the rostral medial prefrontal region more than listening to linguistically comparable but low-tailored cessation messages.

Aims +

Test whether listening to high-tailored smoking cessation messages activates the rostral medial prefrontal region more than listening to linguistically comparable but low-tailored cessation messages.

Participants +

Twenty-four people ages 21 to 65, who are ready to quit smoking are recruited through newspaper ads, flyers, and Engage (the University of Michigan's clinical research study volunteer website).

Intervention +

Responses from a participant's smoking lifestyle survey are used to create high and low variations of tailored messages used during the participant's fMRI scan. Once in the MRI machine, participants see and hear high- and low-tailored smoking cessation messages, in a mixed blocked and event-related design.

Participants listen to 4 blocks of high-tailored messages and 4 blocks of low-tailored messages, presented approximately 65 seconds each. Participants also listen to short event-related trials of high-tailored smoking cessation messages (30 trials), low-tailored smoking cessation messages (30 trials), and neutral smoking cessation messages (28 trials). The short event-related trials are all taken from the longer messages, used in the blocks. Each event-related trial lasts 3.5 seconds. All messages are also printed on the screen. Messages are comparable in amount of content and length and have a 6th grade reading level.

Findings +

  1. High-depth tailored messages are more likely to activate neural substrates associated with self-relevance and episodic long-term memory.
  2. Brain activation patterns of smokers to more tailored smoking cessation messages show heightened activation of medial prefrontal cortex, and precuneus/posterior cingulate, area commonly implicated in self-related processing.
  3. Results support the role of perceived self-relevance of messages in smoking cessation programs, which previous studies have shown to mediate the effect of message tailoring on smoking abstinence.
  4. Different potential self-related processing activities could include retrieving autobiographic episodic memories, evaluating self-traits and aspirations, and relating the intervention messages to self.

These findings are relevant to our understanding of the cognitive mechanisms underlying tailored message processing and may point to new directions for testing response to health communications programming.

Conclusion +

The findings suggest greater perceived relevance of high-tailored messages. It is important to advance our understanding about the mechanisms that underlie the effectiveness of tailored messages, including potential biological responses when receiving these tailored health messages.

A better understanding of health behavior and decision-making processes when attending to self-relevant messages should lead to improvements in understanding brain regions involved in processing self relevant information that will help in designing large-scale public health campaigns, ultimately leading to improved health and reduced costs to our society.

Cessation Messages & Neural Activation

09/01/2006 - 08/31/2007

Sponsor(s)

National Cancer Institute

Principal Investigator:

Hannah Faye C. Chua, PhD