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June 2009


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"Daniel E. Rivera" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Daniel E. Rivera
Sun, 31 May 2009 23:37:26 -0400
text/plain (145 lines)
Dear Members of the CAST10 listserv,

I would like to make you aware of a special session on control systems engineering approaches to 
behavioral health that will be held during the upcoming American Control Conference in St. Louis. 
In addition to presentations on research approaches in this emerging area, the session offers the 
opportunity to interact with program officers from NIH (Patty Mabry) and NSF (Fahmida Chowdury) 
interested in stimulating interest from control systems engineers in this class of problems.

Feel free to direct any inquiries about the session directly to me (contact information in my 
signature below).

Best regards,

Daniel Rivera


Control Engineering and Related Systems Approaches for Improving Behavioral Health

A Special Session held as part of the 2009 American Control Conference 
(, Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront Hotel, June 10-12, 


Daniel E. Rivera, Department of Chemical Engineering, Arizona State University; Fahmida 
Chowdhury, Cross-Directorate Activities Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, National 
Science Foundation
Time:		Thursday June 11, 2009; 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.     
Location:       Mills Studio 3 (Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront Hotel)

The goal of this special session is to describe emerging approaches and research opportunities for 
control engineering in a developing research topic of important societal significance.  Specifically, 
we explore how control systems and related approaches from systems science can be applied to 
the prevention and treatment of chronic behavioral disorders; these include drug and alcohol 
abuse, depression, HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular health, and aging.  Effective 
management of chronic behavioral disorders has major impact on public health, requiring 
hierarchical, multi-stage decision-making of prevention and treatment components over time.  
Conceptually, such time-varying interventions represent forms of closed-loop control systems 
where intervention dosages (i.e., manipulated variables) are determined by decision rules (i.e., 
controllers) based on the values of a participant’s key characteristics (i.e., tailoring variables or 
controlled variables).  Consequently, drawing from control engineering has the potential to 
significantly inform the analysis, design, and implementation of novel behavioral interventions, 
leading to improved adherence, better management of limited resources, a reduction of negative 
effects, and overall more effective interventions. Advances in this field involve significant 
modeling and computational challenges that need to be addressed.  Novel decision rules will draw 
not only from control engineering, but also from the fields of artificial intelligence, statistics, and 
computer science.  Practical solutions will involve individuals from diverse disciplines (e.g., 
psychologists, physicians, statisticians, computer scientists, applied mathematicians, and 
engineers).  The session brings together a control engineer (Rivera), a quantitative psychologist 
(Collins), a statistician (Murphy) and a computer scientist (Pineau) with relevant program officers 
from NSF (Chowdhury) and NIH (Mabry) to address challenges and opportunities in this field.  The 
paper titles and authors are summarized below: (* denotes the corresponding author and 

1. Engineering Control Approaches for the Design and Analysis of Adaptive Behavioral 
Interventions, Daniel E. Rivera* (ASU) and Linda M. Collins (Penn State).

2. Using Clinical Trial Data to Construct Behavioral and Medication Policies,
Susan A. Murphy* (Michigan) and Joelle Pineau (McGill)

3. Systems Science and Health at NIH and Beyond: Areas of Interest and Funding Opportunities, 
Patty Mabry* (NIH)

4. Discussion session (led by Fahmida Chowdhury, NSF)

Paper Synopses

1. Engineering Control Approaches for the Design and Analysis of Adaptive Behavioral 

Daniel E. Rivera
Department of Chemical Engineering
Arizona State University

Linda M. Collins
The Methodology Center and Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Penn State University

The talk will discuss how control engineering concepts can be applied to optimize adaptive 
interventions for prevention and treatment of chronic, relapsing behavioral disorders such as 
substance abuse, mental illness, and obesity.  Adaptive interventions are feedback systems that 
individualize therapy via decision rules that assign dosages and forms of treatment over time; 
consequently drawing from principles in control engineering can 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.  The application of concepts from Internal Model Control, Model Predictive Control, 
and system identification will be discussed.  A simulated example based on Fast Track, a real-life 
preventive intervention designed to reduce conduct disorder in at-risk children, will be presented 
as an illustration.
2.  Using Clinical Trial Data to Construct Policies for Guiding Clinical Decision Making

Presenter: Susan Murphy
Departments of Statistics and Psychiatry
University of Michigan

Joelle Pineau
Department of Computer Science
McGill University

Constructing policies for managing behavioral and mental disorders presents a number of 
challenges to control engineering.  First the clinical trial data sets are quite small, second the 
system dynamics are incompletely understood and third clinically acceptable policies should avoid 
falsely specifying one action as best when in reality there is little evidence in the data to select one 
action over another.  These challenges motivate the development of algorithms and methods that 
are robust to the incomplete knowledge of the system dynamics, and that provide measures of 
confidence for the value of estimated policies. We discuss present approaches to addressing these 

3. Systems Science and Health at NIH and Beyond: Areas of Interest and Funding Opportunities.

Patricia L. Mabry, Ph.D.
Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Located in the Office of the Director at NIH, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research 
(OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is well situated to work across the 27 Institutes 
and Centers that comprise NIH and with other federal agencies (especially the Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention) to stimulate and nurture an under explored field of inquiry: the area at the 
intersection of behavioral and social sciences with systems science and health.  The presentation 
will provide a brief history of how OBSSR came to see the value of systems science, a description 
of some of the complex problems that threaten the public's health and examples of how some of 
these have been addressed with systems science methodologies. Specific funding opportunities 
that feature systems science methodologies will be presented along with a look at the future of 
this new and growing area. 


Daniel E. Rivera, Ph.D.
Professor and Program Director, Control Systems Engineering Laboratory
Chair, IEEE Technical Committee on System Identification and Adaptive Control
Associate Editor, IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology
Department of Chemical Engineering
Mail Stop 876006
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona 85287-6006

Phone: (480) 965-9476
FAX:   (480) 965-0037
email:  [log in to unmask]