Working Memory Training Reduces Cigarette Smoking among Low-Income Individuals with Elevated Delay Discounting

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Nicotine & tobacco research


INTRODUCTION: The competing neurobehavioral decision systems theory conceptualizes addictive behavior, such as cigarette smoking, as arising from the imbalance between stronger impulsive relative to weaker executive decision processes. Working memory trainings may enhance executive decision processes, yet few studies have evaluated its efficacy on substance misuse, with mixed evidence. The current study is the first to evaluate the efficacy of a working memory training on cigarette smoking. We consider the moderating role of delay discounting, or the preference for smaller, immediately available rewards relative to larger, delayed rewards, which has been associated with smoking onset, progression, and resumption. The investigation focuses on individuals living in high-poverty, low-resource environments due high burden of tobacco-related disease they experience.

METHOD: The study utilized a subset of data (N = 177 individuals who smoke) generated from a randomized clinical trial that is evaluating the efficacy of working memory training for improving health-related outcomes. Participants were randomized to complete up to 15 sessions of the active, working memory training or a control training.

RESULTS: Findings showed that among participants who were randomized to the working memory condition, those with higher rates of baseline delay discounting demonstrated decreases in cigarette smoking (p = .05). Conversely, individuals randomized to the control condition, who had higher rates of baseline delay discounting exhibited increases in cigarette smoking (p = .025).

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that DD may be an important indicator of working memory training outcomes and a possible approach for effectively targeting treatments in the future.

IMPLICATIONS: Delay discounting is important indicator of working memory training outcomes on cigarette smoking. The findings suggest the possibility to effectively target treatments considering the impact of delay discounting. Given that rates of DD tend to be higher among individuals from low-resource communities, and that computer-based working memory training programs are relatively low-cost and scalable, these findings suggest this approach may have specific utility for adults at heightened risk for cigarette use.

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ePub ahead of print