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A Pilot Study of an Adaptive, Idiographic, and Multi-Component Attention Bias Modification Program for Social Anxiety Disorder

Abstract

An attentional bias toward threat may be one mechanism underlying clinical anxiety. Attention bias modification (ABM) aims to reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders by directly modifying this deficit. However, existing ABM training programs have not consistently modified attentional bias and may not reflect optimal learning needs of participants (i.e., lack of explicit instruction, training goal unclear to participants, lack of feedback, non-adaptive, inability to differentiate or target different components of attentional bias). In the current study, we introduce a new adaptive ABM program (AABM) and test its feasibility in individuals with social anxiety disorder. We report task characteristics and preliminary evidence that this task consistently modifies attentional bias and that changes in attentional bias (but not number of trials) correlate with the level of symptom reduction. These results suggest that AABM may be a targeted method for the next generation of studies examining the utility of attention training.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Cathy Chen and Kerry Kinney for their help with data collection. This study was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant R01 MH087623 awarded to the first author.

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Correspondence to Nader Amir.

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Conflict of Interest

Nader Amir is part owner of a company that markets anxiety relief products. Jennie M. Kuckertz and Marlene V. Strege declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (national and institutional). Informed consent was obtained from all individual subjects participating in the study.

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No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.

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Amir, N., Kuckertz, J.M. & Strege, M.V. A Pilot Study of an Adaptive, Idiographic, and Multi-Component Attention Bias Modification Program for Social Anxiety Disorder. Cogn Ther Res 40, 661–671 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-016-9781-1

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Keywords

  • Social anxiety
  • Cognitive bias modification
  • Attentional bias
  • Attention bias modification