Investigating the therapeutic potential of cognitive bias modification for high anxiety sensitivity
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Individuals with high anxiety sensitivity (AS) display negative interpretive biases in response to uncomfortable but nondangerous physical sensations. Research suggests that modifying interpretation biases associated with AS leads to changes in AS. The present study sought to replicate and extend this research by addressing limitations of previous studies, increasing the amount of training and adding a follow-up period. METHOD: Participants high in AS were randomly assigned to four sessions of computerized interpretation bias modification (CBM-I) training or four sessions of computerized "sham" training (control condition) over a 2-week period. The outcomes were AS, interpretive biases, and reactions to induced physical sensations. Assessments occurred at baseline, during training, immediately after the final training session, and 2 weeks after the final training; number of re-assessments varied by outcome. RESULTS: The CBM-I condition did not outperform the control condition. At the end of the training period, the CBM-I condition displayed limited reductions in AS and interpretation biases. There were no changes in reactions to induced physical sensations. Similar results were found in the control condition for all outcomes. LIMITATIONS: The control task and the dose of training may have obscured potential effects of CBM-I. CONCLUSIONS: When considered within the context of previous research, the experimental effects and therapeutic potential of CBM-I for high AS appear to be minimal. However, methodological questions need to be resolved before such a conclusion can be considered definitive.
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