Neurocorrelates of Episodic Future Thinking and Its Impact on Delay Discounting by Cigarette Smokers

Dole Building

Cigarette smoking, associated with high rates of delay discounting (DD), remains a major public health concern, and has significant physical, social, and psychological ramifications. A synthesis of the literature on delay discounting and an influential theory of psychological distance (Construal Level Theory) indicates that activities that promote episodic future thinking (concrete prospection of future events) leads to reductions in delay discounting and potential downstream improvements in intention to quit smoking as well as cessation outcomes. We propose art programming as the novel but highly aligned modality to deliver episodic future thinking (EFT). In order to examine engagement of the neural valuation signals that may be associated with the impact of EFT on DD, we propose to examine the neural correlates of the behavioral phenomena using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Accordingly, we have the following Specific Aims. Aim 1. Evaluate initial efficacy of an art-based EFT program to reduce rate of DD among cigarette smokers. Participants will complete a single session, virtual art-based EFT session. We will behaviorally assess DD and related constructs before and after the session. Aim 2. Examine neural correlates of changes in DD resulting from EFT. Using fMRI, we will examine the neural mechanisms of the impact of EFT on DD. Participants will complete a DD task in an MR scanner during concurrent exposure to self-generated EFT imagery compared to non-EFT control imagery. Exploratory Aim. Examine possible changes in smoking rate or intention to quit in the future. At both pre- and post-program behavioral sessions, we will assess participants’ current rate of smoking and intentions of quit. Results consistent with the Aims of this pilot project will serve as justification and preliminary data for a Research Project (R01) Grant application to NCI/NIDA. Our long-term goal is to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of evidence-based art programming to supplement existing behavioral interventions for cigarette smoking and other behaviors that contribute to cancer.

Project details

  • Primary Investigator: Richard Yi

  • Project start Date: 01/01/2020

  • Project finish Date: 12/31/2021



  • University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute

  • Award Number: Q116ED00