Attention-bias modification is designed to shift attention away from perceived threat, whereas attention-control training aims to balance attention between threat and neutral stimuli.
This study compared these two attention strategies in two groups of veterans: one in Israeli Defense Forces veterans and the other in U.S. military veterans. The protocol involved computerized tests focusing the participants’ attention on either neutral or aggressive words.
In both groups, the attention-control training was far more effective in reducing both self-reported and clinician-reported PTSD symptoms in the participants. Attention control, but not attention-bias modification, also reduced the participants’ variability in their attention bias, which is how much they shifted their attention toward or away from threat within a training session.
When the results of both training sessions were combined, the analysis showed that this normalization of attention variability was at least partially responsible for the related improvements in PTSD symptoms. Thus, the authors suggested that balancing these moment-to-moment attention shifts from threat vigilance to threat avoidance may be a preferred treatment strategy.
To learn about another potential approach to treating PTSD, see the Psychiatric News article “Trial of Interpersonal Therapy May Open New Door to Treat PTSD.”
(Image: Shutterstock.com/Feng Yu)