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From cognitive targets to symptom reduction: overview of attention and interpretation bias modification research

Abstract

Cognitive bias modification (CBM) is a class of mechanised psychological interventions designed to target specific aberrant cognitive processes considered key in the aetiology and/or maintenance of specific psychiatric disorders. In this review, we outline a multistage translational process that allows tracking progress in CBM research. This process involves four steps: (1) the identification of reliable cognitive targets and establishing their association with specific disorders; (2) clinical translations designed to rectify the identified cognitive targets; (3) verification of effective target engagement and (4) testing of clinical utility in randomised controlled trials. Through the prism of this multistage process, we review progress in clinical CBM research in two cognitive domains: attention and interpretation; in six psychiatric conditions: anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, addictive disorders, eating disorders and obsessive–compulsive disorder. The review highlights achievement as well as shortcomings of the CBM approach en route to becoming a recognised evidence-supported therapy for these disorders.

  • anxiety disorders
  • depression & mood disorders
  • eating disorders
  • substance misuse

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