Using engineering control principles to inform the design of adaptive interventions: A conceptual introduction

Daniel E. Rivera, Michael D. Pew, Linda M. Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this paper is to describe the role that control engineering principles can play in developing and improving the efficacy of adaptive, time-varying interventions. It is demonstrated that adaptive interventions constitute a form of feedback control system in the context of behavioral health. Consequently, drawing from ideas in control engineering has the potential to significantly inform the analysis, design, and implementation of adaptive interventions, leading to improved adherence, better management of limited resources, a reduction of negative effects, and overall more effective interventions. This article illustrates how to express an adaptive intervention in control engineering terms, and how to use this framework in a computer simulation to investigate the anticipated impact of intervention design choices on efficacy. The potential benefits of operationalizing decision rules based on control engineering principles are particularly significant for adaptive interventions that involve multiple components or address co-morbidities, situations that pose significant challenges to conventional clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S31-S40
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Adaptive interventions
  • Engineering process control
  • Substance abuse prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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