Training-associated changes and stability of attention bias in youth: Implications for Attention Bias Modification Treatment for pediatric anxiety

Jennifer C. Britton, Yair Bar-Haim, Michelle A. Clementi, Lindsey S. Sankin, Gang Chen, Tomer Shechner, Maxine A. Norcross, Carolyn N. Spiro, Kara M. Lindstrom, Daniel S. Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Attention Bias Modification Treatment (ABMT), an emerging treatment for anxiety disorders, is thought to modify underlying, stable patterns of attention. Therefore, ABMT research should take into account the impact of attention bias stability on attention training response, especially in pediatric populations. ABMT research typically relies on the dot-probe task, where individuals detect a probe following an emotional-neutral stimulus pair. The current research presents two dot-probe experiments relevant to ABMT and attention-bias stability. In Experiment 1, anxious youth receiving 8-weeks of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) were randomly assigned to ABMT that trains attention towards happy faces (n = 18) or placebo (n = 18). Two additional comparison groups, anxious youth receiving only CBT (n = 17) and healthy comparison youth (n = 16), were studied. Active attention training towards happy faces did not augment clinician-rated response to CBT; however, individuals receiving training exhibited reductions on self-report measures of anxiety earlier than individuals receiving CBT only. In Experiment 2, healthy youth (n = 12) completed a dot-probe task twice while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. Intra-class correlation demonstrated stability of neural activation in response to attention bias in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Together, these two studies investigate the ways in which attention-bias stability may impact future work on ABMT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-64
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) , National Institutes of Health and the National Alliance of Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) Young Investigator Award (JCB) . A version of these findings was presented at the Anxiety Disorders Association of America annual conference in April 2012. The imaging data partially overlap with data presented in Thomason et al. (2010) . We thank the clinicians in the Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience Program at the NIMH for their assistance.


  • Attention training
  • Dot-probe
  • Test-retest reliability
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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