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Cognitive bias modification procedures in the management of mental disorders

MacLeod, Colin

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: March 2012 - Volume 25 - Issue 2 - p 114–120
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32834fda4a
BEHAVIOURAL MEDICINE: Edited by Mohan Isaac and Winfried Rief

Purpose of review: To review recent research on the therapeutic impact of cognitive bias modification (CBM) procedures, designed to train direct change in the patterns of attentional and interpretive bias known to characterize particular forms of psychopathology.

Recent findings: CBM designed to change attentional selectivity has proven capable of modifying attentional biases associated with emotional dysfunction, pain disorders, eating disorders and addictions. CBM designed to change interpretive selectivity has proven capable of modifying the tendency to resolve ambiguity in a negative manner that is characteristic of emotional dysfunction. Recent research confirms that both forms of CBM can alter the severity of symptoms associated with psychopathology. Extended delivery of such CBM approaches now has been shown to yield therapeutic benefits for a range of anxiety disorders, and in the case of CBM-A has augmented the efficacy of treatment for alcohol dependence.

Summary: CBM approaches have passed the proof-of-concept stage, and recent small-scale trials attest to their likely clinical value. There is a pressing need for large-scale randomized controlled trials, to compare the efficacy of CBM with that of alternative approaches, and to identify how CBM can most effectively be integrated into multimodal treatment programs.

Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion, School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Correspondence to Colin MacLeod, School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia. Tel: +61 8648 83273; e-mail: colin.macleod@uwa.edu.au

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.