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CP 8: Center for Methodologies for Adapting and Personalizing Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Services for SUD and HIV (MAPS Center)

mDOT Center > CP 8: Center for Methodologies for Adapting and Personalizing Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Services for SUD and HIV (MAPS Center)

CP 8: Center for Methodologies for Adapting and Personalizing Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Services for SUD and HIV (MAPS Center)


Collaborating Investigator:

Dr. Inbal Nahum-Shani, University of Michigan


Funding Status: 



9/1/21 – 6/30/26


Associated with:


Designing Reinforcement Learning Algorithms for Digital Interventions: Pre-implementation Guidelines
Publication Venue:

Algorithms in Decision Support Systems

Publication Date:

July 22, 2022


reinforcement learning, online learning, mobile health, algorithm design, algorithm evaluation

Related Project:
Online reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms are increasingly used to personalize digital interventions in the fields of mobile health and online education. Common challenges in designing and testing an RL algorithm in these settings include ensuring the RL algorithm can learn and run stably under real-time constraints, and accounting for the complexity of the environment, e.g., a lack of accurate mechanistic models for the user dynamics. To guide how one can tackle these challenges, we extend the PCS (predictability, computability, stability) framework, a data science framework that incorporates best practices from machine learning and statistics in supervised learning to the design of RL algorithms for the digital interventions setting. Furthermore, we provide guidelines on how to design simulation environments, a crucial tool for evaluating RL candidate algorithms using the PCS framework. We show how we used the PCS framework to design an RL algorithm for Oralytics, a mobile health study aiming to improve users’ tooth-brushing behaviors through the personalized delivery of intervention messages. Oralytics will go into the field in late 2022.

Online RL faces challenges like real-time stability and handling complex, unpredictable environments; to address these issues, the PCS framework originally used in supervised learning is extended to guide the design of RL algorithms for such settings, including guidelines for creating simulation environments, as exemplified in the development of an RL algorithm for the mobile health study Oralytics aimed at enhancing tooth-brushing behaviors through personalized intervention messages.

The focus of the MAPS Center is the development, evaluation, and dissemination of novel research methodologies that are essential to optimize adaptive interventions to combat SUD/HIV. Project 2 focuses on developing innovative methods that will enable scientists, for the first time, to optimize the integration of human-delivered services with relatively low-intensity adaptation (i.e., adaptive interventions) and digital services with high-intensity adaptation (i.e., JITAIs). This project will develop a new trial design in which individuals can be randomized simultaneously to human-delivered and digital interventions at different time scales. This includes developing guidelines for trial design, sample size calculators, and statistical analysis methods that will enable scientists to use data from the new experimental design to address novel questions about synergies between human-delivered adaptive interventions and digital JITAIs. Project 3 focuses on developing innovative methods to optimize JITAIs in which the decision rules are continually updated to ensure effective adaptation as individual needs change and societal trends occur. Integrating approaches from artificial intelligence and statistics, this project will develop algorithms that continually update “population-based” decision rules (designed to work well for all individuals on average) to improve intervention effectiveness. This project will also generalize these algorithms to continually optimize “person-specific” decision rules for JITAIs. The algorithms will be designed specifically to (a) assign each individual the intervention that is right for them at a particular moment; (b) maintain acceptable levels of burden; and (c) maintain engagement.

Project 3 of MAPS aims to collaborate with TR&D2 (Murphy) by developing methods for appropriately pooling of data from multiple users to speed up learning of both population-based decision rules as well as personalized decision rules. These collaborations will used to enhance the impact of TR&D2’s Aims 2 and 3 and thus lay the foundation for successful future research projects. Project 3 of MAPS aims to collaborate with TR&D1 (Marlin) by utilizing advances by TR&D1 in propagating and representing uncertainty in Project 3’s development of methods for adapting the timing and location of delivery of different intervention prompts. These collaborations will increase the impact of TR&D1’s Aims 1 and 2. Project 2 of MAPS plans to collaborate with TR&D1 (Marlin) to develop a composite substance use risk indicator derived from sensor data that can be assessed at different time scales and hence can inform the adaptation of both human-delivered and digital interventions; and to collaborate with TR&D2 (Murphy) to develop optimization methods for learning what type and under what conditions digital interventions are best delivered in a setting in which non-digital interventions (human-delivered interventions) are also provided-- this is an extreme case of TR&D2’s Aim 3 focused on multiple intervention components delivered at different time scales and with different short-term objectives. As such this collaboration has the potential to synergistically enhance both TR&D’s as well as MAP’s Project 2 aims.


CP, Drug Use, HIV, TR&D2

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