Date of Award

8-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Psychology

Program

Psychology - General

First Advisor/Chairperson

Dr. Joshua Carlson

Second Advisor

Dr. Adam Prus

Third Advisor

Antony Aumann

Abstract

Increased attentional bias to threat has been identified as a causal mechanism in the development of anxiety. As such, attention bias modification (ABM) was conceived as a treatment option where anxiety is alleviated through a computerized cognitive training regimen that reduces an individual’s attentional bias to threat. However, few studies to date have examined how to tailor ABM treatments to unique individuals and how that may facilitate greater generalization of treatment effects in the real world. Additionally, the neural mechanisms underlying ABM are poorly understood. The participants in this study gave a list of the 10 things that caused them the most anxiety and those stimuli were incorporated into the ABM design in place of typically, experimenter-generated stimuli. A control group completed a self-relevant variant of the dot-probe task in place of ABM. Pre and post-testing, consisting of the dot-probe task while NIRS activity was recorded, did not reveal significant changes in behavior or brain activation. However, examination of the control group’s data revealed that participants generally displayed an attention bias towards their self-relevant threats and that reaction time stabilized after an initial session, implying that a practice session may facilitate more reliable results with the dot-probe task. Interestingly, participants only showed an attention bias on trials involving the top half of the screen and attention bias scores garnered from top and bottom trials separately were highly correlated across sessions, suggesting that researchers may need to consider the spatial location of the target in order to draw more reliable results.

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