A dynamical systems approach to understanding self-regulation in smoking cessation behavior change

Kevin P. Timms, Daniel E. Rivera, Linda M. Collins, Megan E. Piper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Self-regulation, a key component of the addiction process, has been challenging to model precisely in smoking cessation settings, largely due to the limitations of traditional methodological approaches in measuring behavior over time. However, increased availability of intensive longitudinal data (ILD) measured through ecological momentary assessment facilitates the novel use of an engineering modeling approach to better understand self-regulation. Methods: Dynamical systems modeling is a mature engineering methodology that can represent smoking cessation as a selfregulation process. This article shows how a dynamical systems approach effectively captures the reciprocal relationship between day-to-day changes in craving and smoking. Models are estimated using ILD from a smoking cessation randomized clinical trial. Results: A system of low-order differential equations is presented that models cessation as a self-regulatory process. It explains 87.32% and 89.16% of the variance observed in craving and smoking levels, respectively, for an active treatment group and 62.25% and 84.12% of the variance in a control group. The models quantify the initial increase and subsequent gradual decrease in craving occurring postquit as well as the dramatic quit-induced smoking reduction and postquit smoking resumption observed in both groups. Comparing the estimated parameters for the group models suggests that active treatment facilitates craving reduction and slows postquit smoking resumption. Conclusions: This article illustrates that dynamical systems modeling can effectively leverage ILD in order to understand selfregulation within smoking cessation. Such models quantify group-level dynamic responses in smoking cessation and can inform the development of more effective interventions in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S159-S168
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue numberSUPPL2
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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