Cognitive bias modification: A new approach to treating emotional disorders

May 28, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- A new approach to preventing and treating anxiety and depression may be used to improve the emotional health of fly-in fly-out workers and people living in bushfire-prone areas.

The new approach, known as cognitive bias modification (CBM), has been developed by researchers involved in a world-leading study at The University of Western Australia.

Led by Winthrop Professor Colin MacLeod, from UWA's Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion (CARE), the team has already published studies that show how CBM works for anxiety and addictions.

The treatment works by altering automatic and unconscious biases in the way people selectively process emotional information, using simple computer programs and smart . It can be effective after only a few 15-minute sessions and does not use drug or counselling therapy. All it requires is to sit in front of a computer or use a smartphone app and access a program that subtly alters harmful thought patterns.

CARE researchers are now working with the Australian Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre to evaluate whether CBM can be used to improve the emotional and behavioural preparedness of people exposed to the threat of bushfire.

Professor MacLeod also plans to investigate CBM's potential contribution to the prevention and remediation of depression in rural and remote areas of Western Australia, with a particular focus on how computer-delivered and smartphone-based CBM techniques can enhance the of fly-in fly-out workers. FIFO staff often work in isolated regions with limited access to traditional .

In addition, the Romanian Complex Exploratory Research Project program has awarded Professor MacLeod almost $2 million funding to lead three teams of Transylvanian researchers in a longitudinal study of in adolescents. The study will combine CBM techniques with genetic and developmental approaches.

CARE has succeeded in attracting funding for several international collaborations. They include postdoctoral research fellow Dr Patrick Clarke and PhD student Ben Grafton, who will carry out collaborative work on CBM with colleagues at Oxford University and postdoctoral research fellow Lies Notebaert, funded by the Australian Bushfire CRC, whose work on CBM will involve collaboration with partners at Ghent University in Belgium.

Professor MacLeod has also won funding to support collaborative CBM research with colleagues at Harvard University where UWA PhD student Dan Rudaizky is currently working with Professor Rich McNally to evaluate a new iPhone app developed by CARE to produce beneficial cognitive change.

"We are delighted our researchers are committed to ensuring their internationally influential work also delivers practical benefits to the Western Australian community," Professor MacLeod said.

Explore further: Computerized anxiety therapy found helpful in small trial

Related Stories

Computerized anxiety therapy found helpful in small trial

September 14, 2011
A small clinical trial suggests that cognitive bias modification (CBM), a potential anxiety therapy that is delivered entirely on a computer, may be about as effective as in-person therapy or drugs for treating social anxiety ...

Weight of object not an issue when determining left or right-handedness

October 21, 2011
More than 90 per cent of the world’s population exhibit a strong preference for using their right hand, as opposed to their left, for grasping and lifting everything from car keys to coffee mugs. The cause of this near-global ...

Accentuating the positive may eliminate the negative in teenagers with anxiety

July 13, 2011
Training teenagers to look at social situations positively could help those with anxiety and may help prevent problems persisting into adult life, new research from Oxford University is beginning to suggest.

One-third of adult Americans with arthritis battle anxiety or depression

April 30, 2012
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one-third of U.S. adults with arthritis, 45 years and older, report having anxiety or depression. According to findings that appear today in ...

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.