Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Computerized anxiety therapy found helpful in small trial

15.09.2011
An emerging therapy known as cognitive bias modification, in which software helps subjects divert attention away from anxiety and interpret situations more calmly, helped improve anxiety symptoms in a pilot-scale randomized controlled trial.

“(CBM) certainly isn’t going to replace therapy. I see it more as a very inexpensive, very easy to deliver, first-line intervention that could help a lot of people."PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — 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 disorder. The Brown University-led research also found that participants believed the therapy to be credible and acceptable.

Participants in the pilot study, published in advance online in the journal Depression and Anxiety, improved their scores on a standardized measure of anxiety and on a public speaking task after completing two simple exercises twice a week for four weeks.

The hope for CBM is that it can provide a new option for anxiety sufferers who cannot find or pay for a qualified therapist, who are afraid to try cognitive behavior therapies where they directly confront their fears, or who can’t or don’t want to try medications. Still, the idea of computer-based therapy has been controversial, acknowledged Courtney Beard, the new study’s lead author and assistant professor (research) of psychiatry and human behavior in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

“A lot of people are skeptical, particularly people like me who are clinicians and know how hard it is to help people with anxiety and how much effort and time it takes in therapy,” Beard said. “It just doesn’t seem possible that a computer program could produce similar effects. But I’m more of a scientist than a clinician so I want to see data.”

Beard’s study is the first randomized clinical trial, albeit with a small sample size of 20 people who received the therapy and 12 placebo controls, to combine two techniques of CBM to treat social anxiety disorder: one that seeks to enhance subjects’ control over what they pay attention to and another that trains them to interpret situations less anxiously.

Beard worked on the study with co-authors Risa Weisberg at Brown and Nader Amir at the University of California–San Diego.

Therapy at the computer

The “attention” technique trains subjects to ignore a worrying social cue and instead to complete a task. Subjects were quickly shown both a disgusted face and a neutral face on a split screen. One face would quickly be replaced with a letter, either an E or an F. The subjects’ task was to report which letter they saw. For those receiving the therapy, the neutral face was always the one replaced, meaning the subjects had to divert their attention from the worrisome disgusted face. For the placebo group, either face had an equal chance of being replaced.

The interpretation technique encourages anxiety sufferers to assign benign interpretations to social situations. Subjects were asked to say whether a word they saw on the screen was related to the sentence that followed. Those receiving the therapy, for instance, would see either “embarrassing” or “funny” before seeing the sentence “People laugh after something you said.” The subjects would be told they were correct if they chose the relatively benign word or incorrect if they chose the anxious interpretation. Placebo subjects, meanwhile, saw words that had nothing to do with the situation’s social nature.

The subjects self-reported their anxiety level five times during the four-week period by answering standard questions on the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. The average score of those receiving the therapy dropped from more than 80 to about 60 (lower is better), while those in the placebo group barely edged down at all. Blinded, trained evaluators judged the public speaking task, a five-minute impromptu speech, at the beginning and the end of the study. The scores showed a significant improvement in those who received the therapy, while the speaking scores of the placebo group got worse.

Studies of CBM began in healthy subjects in 2002, but clinical trials of CBM as a therapy for people with anxiety only began to appear in the literature in 2009, Beard said. Hers is the first clinical trial to add a behavioral performance measure, such as public speaking, and is the first to assess whether patients found the treatment credible (e.g., did the therapy make sense?) and acceptable (was this something you could do?). On both issues, participants provided moderately positive assessments.

Not yet proven

Although the study’s results agree with many of the other small studies published to date, Beard said CBM still must be subjected to larger trials with longer follow-up times before the therapy’s seeming effectiveness can be considered convincing.

Even then, she said, it’s unlikely that CBM would displace other forms of treatment for anxiety disorders. Instead, it might prove worthwhile as a first step to try.

“This certainly isn’t going to replace therapy,” she said. “I see it more as a very inexpensive, very easy to deliver, first-line intervention that could help a lot of people. For those it doesn’t help, then maybe we could devote the more expensive and time-intensive resources to them.”

Funding for the study came from the National Institute of Mental Health. Amir has applied for a patent on CBM technology and is part owner of a company that makes CBM software.

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.

David Orenstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

nachricht Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>