Psychology Professor Seeks to Promote Self-Regulation, Improve Public Health Through Research
Through his research – a five-year project with total costs of around $3.3 million – Simons and his partners will conduct a nationwide clinical trial to test a biobehavioral intervention aimed at improving motivation and self-regulation related to reducing HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Biobehavioral intervention seeks to apply biological methods and ideas to study behavior and psychological function in attempt to understand emotions and actions. In the context of Simons’ research, the biobehavioral intervention uses motivational and self-regulation principles to promote adoption of medication and encourage change in behavior to reduce HIV among MSM.
Participants will be recruited nationwide for the clinical trial, and Simons and his partners will meet with the participants via videoconference.
“As the interventionists, my team and I will assist people in determining their health goals, increasing their motivation, implementing strategies to attain their goals and identifying ways to overcome any barriers they may face,” Simons said.
The project design also integrates telehealth aspects, text messaging and real-time assessment using an app on participants’ mobile phones. The telehealth portion includes a brief individual intervention to increase motivation and regulatory skills to promote condom use or initiating pre-exposure prophylactic medication (PrEP). Text messaging is used four weeks after the telehealth intervention to promote the use of intervention strategies in the natural environment. The real-time assessment aspect includes surveys on participants’ smartphones to access alcohol levels, motivation and emotion, working memory and sexual behavior.
“The ultimate goal is to improve public health by reducing sexually transmitted infections such as HIV,” said Simons. “More broadly, a central goal of the research is to advance understanding in how individuals regulate themselves to promote and maintain good health and avoid health risk behavior.”