Effect of Attention Training on Attention Bias Variability and PTSD Symptoms

A computerized attention-control training program significantly reduced combat veterans’ preoccupation with – or avoidance of — threat and attendant PTSD symptoms. By contrast, another type of computerized training, called attention bias modification – which has proven helpful in treating anxiety disorders – did not reduce PTSD symptoms. NIMH and Israeli researchers conducted parallel trials in which the two treatments were tested in US and Israeli combat veterans.

While attention bias modification trains attention either away from or toward threat, attention-control training implicitly teaches participants that threatening stimuli are irrelevant to performing their task. It requires them to attend equally to threatening and neutral stimuli. The study determined that this reduced symptoms by reducing attention bias variability. Attention control training balances such moment-to-moment fluctuations in attention bias from threat vigilance to threat avoidance, which correlated with the severity of PTSD symptoms and distinguished PTSD patients from healthy controls and patients with social anxiety or acute stress disorders.

Population of focus: Veterans and military members

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Date: 2015

Journal: American Journal of Psychiatry