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Neuroplasticity in an extended amygdala network as a target mechanism for attention training outcome

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Monday, October 5, 2015, 2 pm

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Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors Forum

Josh Carlson
Assistant Professor, Northern Michigan University

Increased attentional bias to threat has been identified as a causal mechanism in the development of anxiety. As such, attention bias modification was conceived as a treatment option where anxiety is alleviated through a computerized cognitive training regimen that reduces an individual’s attentional bias to negatively valenced information. After more than a decade of research on attention bias modification (ABM), there is meta-analytic support for ABM in reducing attentional bias and anxiety symptoms. However, although ABM appears to be a very promising treatment option for anxiety, ABM is not universally effective. One factor limiting the effectiveness of ABM is a known underlying mechanism of action. In this talk I will provide evidence that attentional bias to visual threat is associated with a network of brain regions including the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and visual cortex. I will also present preliminary evidence that gray matter volume in this network is reduced by ABM training and that greater reductions in gray matter volume correspond to greater reductions in attentional bias and anxiety symptoms.

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