A new study by experimental psychologists from the University of Bristol has examined whether cognitive bias modification (CBM) for facial interpretation, a digital health intervention that changes our perception for emotional expressions from negative to positive, might be useful in treating depression.
The study, published recently in the journal Royal Society Open Science, also contributes to ongoing discussion over the viability of CBM in the clinic.
Have you ever walked away from a social interaction feeling uncomfortable or anxious? Maybe you felt the person you were talking to disliked you, or perhaps they said something negative and it was all you could remember about the interaction.
We all occasionally focus on the negative rather than the positive, and sometimes ruminate over a negative event, but a consistent tendency to perceive even ambiguous or neutral words, faces, and interactions as negative (a negative bias), may play a causal role in the onset and rate of relapse in depression.
A growing field of psychological interventions known as cognitive bias modification (CBM) propose that by modifying these negative biases it may be possible to intervene prior to the onset of depression.
Given that access to proven psychological and pharmacological treatments for mood disorders is limited, and that in countries like the UK public treatment for depression is affected by long waiting lists, high costs, and low overall response rates, there is a need for effective treatments which are inexpensive, and both quick and easy to deliver.
But following early excitement from promising CBM findings, considerable problems have been identified, not limited to publication bias (positive findings are more likely to be published) and small therapeutic effects.
The study, testing a new CBM paradigm, questions these previous positive findings.
The study’s lead author, Sarah Peters, who is a PhD student at the University of Bristol’s School of Experimental Psychology and Biomedical Research Centre, said: “We wanted to test a novel CBM paradigm which has previously shown robust bias modification effects, but for which the impact on mood and mood-relevant measures was unclear.”
Peters and her colleagues at the University of Bristol and University College London ran a proof of principle trial in a non-patient population.
She further explained: “We do these to test potential new interventions before we offer them to individuals seeking treatment. Even if we show that a task is shifting your bias and we think that’s relevant to mood disorders, what matters is whether it impacts mood-related outcomes and shows clinical utility.”
The authors had two specific aims. Firstly, they aimed to replicate previous findings to confirm that the intervention could indeed shift the emotional interpretation of faces; could they make their participants see negative faces as more positive. Secondly, they were interested in whether this shift in interpretation would impact on clinically-relevant outcomes such as self-reported mood symptoms.
Among these were self-report questionnaires of depressive and anxious symptoms and the interpretation of ambiguous scenarios and daily stressful events.
The cognitive tasks included a dot probe task to measure selective attention towards negative (versus neutral) emotional words, a motivation for rewards task which has been shown to measure anhedonia (the loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities), and a measure of stress-reactivity (whereby individuals complete a simple task under two conditions: safe and under stress). This final task was included because it is thought that the negative biases they were interested in modifying are more pronounced when an individual is under stress.
While the intervention successfully shifted the interpretation of facial expressions (from negative to positive), there was only inconclusive evidence of improved mood and the CBM procedure failed to impact most measures.
There was some evidence that daily stressful events were perceived as less stressful by those in the intervention group post-CBM, weaker evidence for reduced feelings of pleasure in the intervention group, and some exploratory evidence for greater improvements seen by individuals with higher anxiety at baseline.
Peters added: “Overall, it’s unlikely that this procedure in its current design will impact on clinically-relevant symptoms. However, the small effects observed still warrant future study in larger and clinical samples. Given the large impact and cost of mood disorders on the one hand, and the relatively low cost of providing CBM training on the other, clarifying whether even small effects exist is likely worthwhile.”
Even if this procedure fails to result in clinical improvement, documenting and understanding the different steps in going from basic scientific experimentation to intervening in clinical samples is crucial for both the scientific field and the general public to know.
Additionally, the negative findings shown in this study offer a useful contribution to the field of CBM research. It is common for new clinical interventions to initially appear promising (as a result of early study methodologies and publication bias for positive results), but it’s only over time that more robust studies are conducted and question these early findings.
In a body of research where positive results prevail and negative results remain unpublished, studies which are methodologically sound and question this status are necessary and informative.
The Latest on: Cognitive bias modification
- Perceptual bias is reduced with longer reaction times during visual discriminationon February 10, 2020 at 4:54 pm
Fast and slow decisions exhibit distinct behavioral properties, such as the presence of decision bias in faster but not slower responses. This dichotomy is currently explained by assuming that ...
- Sarcopenia index based on serum creatinine and cystatin C is associated with 3-year mortality in hospitalized older patientson February 7, 2020 at 11:58 am
Most recently, sarcopenia has been recognized as a disease with an international classification of disease, tenth revision, clinical modification (ICD-10-MC ... The prevalence of depression, cognitive ...
- Innovation: The Illustrated Guide of Jobs-to-be-done theoryon February 7, 2020 at 11:56 am
To fuel their process, they have embraced piles and piles of data to come up with a solution to support their cognitive bias and narrative ... customers with some modifications in it).
- The old knee in the young athlete: knowns and unknowns in the return to play conversationon February 2, 2020 at 4:00 pm
and why do some athletes not follow activity modification advice?11 As clinicians, we need to be able to separate our own cognitive biases (eg, surgery is necessary to allow a return to pivoting ...
- How to kick a Red Bull habit – studyon January 30, 2020 at 5:57 pm
The paper, ‘Cognitive bias modification for energy drink cues‘ (December 2019) by E Kemps, M Tiggemann, M Cibich and A Cabala was published in PLoS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226387 Well, unlike ...
- How to head off a caffeinated energy drink habiton January 29, 2020 at 6:19 am
The paper, "Cognitive bias modification for energy drink cues," by E Kemps, M Tiggemann, M Cibich and A Cabala was published in PLoS ONE.
- Age Discrimination Is Bad — for the Bottom Lineon January 24, 2020 at 12:49 am
And even though some cognitive skills, such as the ability to ... Not acting as forcefully on age discrimination as on other kinds of bias carries an unpredictable political cost for politicians ...
- Why Is Cold Weather In January So Confusing For Some People?on January 22, 2020 at 5:58 pm
and modifications to certain weather events. There is no reason for anyone to use a single day or week as evidence. I was sufficiently curious about whether established cognitive biases can ...
- Our Human Narrative Tendencyon January 20, 2020 at 1:00 pm
Cognitive biases are deviations in the processing ... have modified the conditional probabilities of their occurrence. 2. These modifications have allowed the adjustment of the responses of ...
- Lab Personnelon April 1, 2018 at 2:36 pm
Further, she has a deep interest in the development of novel treatment methods, specifically through augmenting current evidence-based treatments with contemplative practices and cognitive bias ...
via Google News and Bing News
A collaborative team of researchers is to develop a wearable robotic system for minimally invasive surgery, also known as keyhole surgery, that will offer surgeons natural and dexterous move... Read more
The very first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to perform a perched landing using machine learning algorithms has been developed in partnership with the University of Bristol and BMT Defence S... Read more
New technology that could enhance both the electrical and thermal conductivity of conventional composite materials has been developed thanks to a collaboration between the University of Surr... Read more
A ‘living bandage’ made from stem cells, which could revolutionise the treatment and prognosis of a common sporting knee injury, has been trialled in humans for the first time by scientists... Read more
Ground-breaking research from the University of Surrey and Augmented Optics Ltd, in collaboration with the University of Bristol, has developed potentially transformational technology which... Read more
New technology has been developed that uses nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery. A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol have grown a... Read more
A mid-air display of ‘floating pixels’ has been created by scientists. Researchers at the Universities of Sussex and Bristol have used soundwaves to lift many tiny objects at once before spi... Read more
Scientists have found evidence of microfibers ingested by deep sea animals, revealing for the first time the environmental fallout of microplastic pollution. The UK government recently annou... Read more
In the face of increasing bandwidth demands, ground-breaking research between the University of Bristol and the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology (NICT) in Japan... Read more
An international team of researchers has developed a website at d-place.org to help answer long-standing questions about the forces that shaped human cultural diversity. D-PLACE – the Databa... Read more
When you first learn about 3D printing, it seems like magic, but when you begin to understand the science and mechanics of it, the concept becomes a lot more logical (although the things tha... Read more