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A personalized approach to effects of affective bias modification on symptom change and rumination

 A randomized controlled trial

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About the project

Persons experiencing depression often have several comorbid disorder like anxiety and alcohol problems. Common mechanisms might underlie this comorbidity. Rumination is such transdiagnostic factor, and it is associated with a tendency to automatically direct attention towards negative stimuli. This affective bias continuously feeds negative thoughts and feelings, and is a basic mechanism maintaining psychological distress.

From previous research, we know that affective biases are modifiable. Computerized training programs targeting affective biases thereby offers a drug-free alternative for alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, we know that this is valid on a group level, but we still do not know who benefits the most from this approach. Furthermore, the mechanism underlying the symptom change is still unidentified. 


The objective of this project is to modify this type of adverse affective bias by means of a computerized training method called Affective bias modification (ABM). By supplementing ABM with a personalized symptoms network approach, we will be in the forefront of understanding how a drug-free treatment option works and for whom it works best.

This study will include 150 persons experiencing depression, with or without anxiety and alcohol problems. They will undergo a 2-week computerized cognitive training program to modify this negative affective bias. Before and after this training, we will use their smartphones to gather data to form the symptom network of each individual. This will enable us to investigate how and for whom ABM works best. A central hypothesis is that this intervention will be associated with changes in biological and psychological markers that maintain transdiagnostic psychological distress.


ExtraFoundation through the Council for Mental Health 2019 - 2021.


The project builds on an established collaboration between Department of Psychology and the Department of Psychiatry, Diakonhjemmet Hospital and international colleagues.

Published June 4, 2019 1:10 PM - Last modified Dec. 20, 2021 9:29 AM