Biobehavioral Markers of Attention Bias Modification in Temperamental Risk for Anxiety: A Randomized Control Trial

Pan Liu, Bradley C. Taber-Thomas, Xiaoxue Fu, Koraly E. Pérez-Edgar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective: Children with behavioral inhibition, a temperament characterized by biologically based hypervigilance to novelty and social withdrawal, are at high risk for developing anxiety. This study examined the effect of a novel attention training protocol, attention bias modification (ABM), on symptomatic, behavioral, and neural risk markers in children with behavioral inhibition. Method: Nine- to 12-year-old typically developing children identified as having behavioral inhibition (N = 84) were assigned to a 4-session active ABM training (n = 43) or placebo protocol (n = 41) using a double-blinded, randomized, controlled trial approach. Anxiety symptoms (Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children–Fourth Edition), attention bias (AB; measured by a dot-probe task; AB = incongruent reaction time − congruent reaction time), and AB-related neural activation (measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging activation for the incongruent > congruent contrast in the dot-probe task) were assessed before and after the training sessions. Results: Results showed that active ABM (n = 40) significantly alleviated participants’ symptoms of separation anxiety, but not social anxiety, compared with the placebo task (n = 40); ABM did not modify behavioral AB scores in the dot-probe task; and at the neural level, active ABM (n = 15) significantly decreased amygdala and insula activation and increased activation in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex compared with placebo (n = 19). Conclusion: These findings provide important evidence for ABM as a potentially effective protective tool for temperamentally at-risk children in a developmental window before the emergence of clinical disorder and open to prevention and intervention. Clinical trial registration information—Attention and Social Behavior in Children (BRAINS);; NCT02401282.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-110
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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