Waters, Allison, Pittaway, Michelle, Mogg, Karin, Bradley, Brendan P. and Pine, Daniel S.
Attention training towards positive stimuli in clinically anxious children
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 4, . (doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2012.09.004).
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Attention bias modification training (ABMT) is a promising treatment.
Nevertheless, few studies examine its effectiveness in anxious children. This study examined the
efficacy of such an ABMT protocol in pediatric anxiety. Method: 37 anxious children were randomly
assigned to one of two ABMT conditions. In the attention-towards-positive (ATP) condition, children
searched 3 x 3 matrices for a happy face amongst angry faces. In the attention-training-control (ATC)
condition, they searched for a bird amongst flowers. Children completed 160 trials in each of four
training sessions per week for three weeks at home (1920 total trials). Clinical and attention bias
measures were assessed before and after ABMT. Results: Children randomized to ATP showed greater
post-training attention bias towards happy faces than children randomized to ATC. ATP also produced
significantly greater reductions in clinician-rated diagnostic severity and number of diagnoses,
compared to ATC. In the ATP group, 50% of children who completed training did not meet criteria for
their principal diagnosis, compared to 8% in the ATC group. Conclusion: Training anxious children to
focus attention on positive features of their environment may be a promising treatment.
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