Introduction: Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) and related methods typically entail repeatedly and intensively sampling behavior as it occurs over time and under naturalistic conditions. Although the methodological features of EMA make it a highly valuable research technique in its own right, EMA can also be a potent counterpart to other approaches. One methodological partnership with substantial yet largely untapped potential for the study of tobacco dependence is the pairing of EMA with functional brain imaging. Methods: The goal of this review is to outline the promise of this approach, with a focus on the combined use of EMA and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Due to the unique and complementary strengths of each method, the merger of EMA and fMRI methods has the potential to advance the understanding of tobacco dependence in ways difficult or impossible to achieve through the use of either method in isolation. Results: In addition to describing a conceptual basis for combining EMA with fMRI, we provide a preliminary empirical illustration of this integrative approach using data from an ongoing study. Conclusions: EMA and fMRI have independently yielded important findings regarding the nature and treatment of tobacco dependence. The integration of these powerful research methods, however, holds even greater potential for the field of tobacco research. Additionally, recent advances are paving the way for the synergistic use of fMRI and EMA-based methods to develop innovative approaches to tobacco cessation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health