Health Sciences Clinical Instructor
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Project title: Extinction Learning as Facilitator of Cognitive Bias Modification for Youth Anxiety

John Piacentini, PhD – UCLA
Michelle Craske, PhD – UCLA

Multidisciplinary Expertise:
Anxiety disorders, child and adolescent psychology, experimental therapeutics, fear learning

Project Description:
Anxiety is a chronic and debilitating condition that affects up to 30% of youth. As anxious individuals interpret ambiguous information as threatening, researchers have begun to directly modify interpretation with the use of computerized cognitive bias modification interventions (CBM-I), which are proposed to reduce anxiety by training more benign, rather than threatening, cognitive associations. The current study involves a randomized controlled trial of CBM-I, as compared to a computerized control condition, to treat youth anxiety and simultaneously test whether the intervention works by extinguishing cognitive fear associations. Anxious youth (ages 10 to 17) will be randomly assigned to 12 sessions of either a personalized CBM-I program or a computerized control condition. Anxiety, interpretation bias, and physiological arousal during a fear paradigm will be assessed at pre-, mid-, and post-treatment to explore extinction learning as a putative mechanism underlying CBM-I efficacy. Findings have immediate clinical implications for potential use of CBM-I as stand-alone intervention, as well as an augmentation to exposure-based therapy.