Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 62
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Dennis-Tiwary, Tracy A. Egan, Laura J. Babkirk, Sarah and Denefrio, Samantha 2016. For whom the bell tolls: Neurocognitive individual differences in the acute stress-reduction effects of an attention bias modification game for anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, Vol. 77, p. 105.

    Fergus, Thomas A. and Bardeen, Joseph R. 2016. The Attention Training Technique: A Review of a Neurobehavioral Therapy for Emotional Disorders. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, Vol. 23, Issue. 4, p. 502.

    Sass, Sarah M. Evans, Travis C. Xiong, Kue Mirghassemi, Felicia and Tran, Huy 2016. Attention training to pleasant stimuli in anxiety. Biological Psychology,

    Thai, Nhi Taber-Thomas, Bradley C. and Pérez-Edgar, Koraly E. 2016. Neural correlates of attention biases, behavioral inhibition, and social anxiety in children: An ERP study. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Vol. 19, p. 200.

    Wald, Ilan Bitton, Shani Levi, Ofir Zusmanovich, Sergei Fruchter, Eyal Ginat, Keren Charney, Dennis S. Pine, Daniel S. and Bar-Haim, Yair 2016. Acute delivery of attention bias modification training (ABMT) moderates the association between combat exposure and posttraumatic symptoms: A feasibility study. Biological Psychology,

    Wald, I. Fruchter, E. Ginat, K. Stolin, E. Dagan, D. Bliese, P. D. Quartana, P. J. Sipos, M. L. Pine, D. S. and Bar-Haim, Y. 2016. Selective prevention of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder using attention bias modification training: a randomized controlled trial. Psychological Medicine, Vol. 46, Issue. 12, p. 2627.

    Wauthia, Erika and Rossignol, Mandy 2016. Emotional Processing and Attention Control Impairments in Children with Anxiety: An Integrative Review of Event-Related Potentials Findings. Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 7,

    Wiers, Corinde E. and Wiers, Reinout W. 2016. Imaging the neural effects of cognitive bias modification training. NeuroImage,

    Zendel, Benjamin Rich de Boysson, Chloé Mellah, Samira Démonet, Jean-François and Belleville, Sylvie 2016. The impact of attentional training on event-related potentials in older adults. Neurobiology of Aging, Vol. 47, p. 10.

    Aue, Tatjana and Okon-Singer, Hadas 2015. Expectancy biases in fear and anxiety and their link to biases in attention. Clinical Psychology Review, Vol. 42, p. 83.

    Britton, Jennifer C. Suway, Jenna G. Clementi, Michelle A. Fox, Nathan A. Pine, Daniel S. and Bar-Haim, Yair 2015. Neural changes with attention bias modification for anxiety: a randomized trial. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Vol. 10, Issue. 7, p. 913.

    Chen, Nigel T.M. Clarke, Patrick J.F. Watson, Tamara L. MacLeod, Colin and Guastella, Adam J. 2015. Attentional bias modification facilitates attentional control mechanisms: Evidence from eye tracking. Biological Psychology, Vol. 104, p. 139.

    Dodell-Feder, David Tully, Laura M. and Hooker, Christine I. 2015. Social impairment in schizophrenia. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, Vol. 28, Issue. 3, p. 236.

    Heeren, Alexandre Philippot, Pierre and Koster, Ernst H.W. 2015. Impact of the temporal stability of preexistent attentional bias for threat on its alteration through attention bias modification. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Vol. 49, p. 69.

    Kornilov, Sergey A. Magnuson, James S. Rakhlin, Natalia Landi, Nicole and Grigorenko, Elena L. 2015. Lexical processing deficits in children with developmental language disorder: An event-related potentials study. Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 27, Issue. 02, p. 459.

    Linetzky, Marian Pergamin-Hight, Lee Pine, Daniel S. and Bar-Haim, Yair 2015. QUANTITATIVE EVALUATION OF THE CLINICAL EFFICACY OF ATTENTION BIAS MODIFICATION TREATMENT FOR ANXIETY DISORDERS. Depression and Anxiety, Vol. 32, Issue. 6, p. 383.

    Liu, Yunzhe Zhang, Dandan and Luo, Yuejia 2015. How disgust facilitates avoidance: an ERP study on attention modulation by threats. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Vol. 10, Issue. 4, p. 598.

    Nelson, Brady D. Jackson, Felicia Amir, Nader and Hajcak, Greg 2015. Single-session attention bias modification and error-related brain activity. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 15, Issue. 4, p. 776.

    Sigurjónsdóttir, Ólafía Sigurðardóttir, Sólrún Björnsson, Andri S. and Kristjánsson, Árni 2015. Barking up the wrong tree in attentional bias modification? Comparing the sensitivity of four tasks to attentional biases. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Vol. 48, p. 9.

    Waters, Allison M. Zimmer-Gembeck, Melanie J. Craske, Michelle G. Pine, Daniel S. Bradley, Brendan P. and Mogg, Karin 2015. Look for good and never give up: A novel attention training treatment for childhood anxiety disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, Vol. 73, p. 111.


Neural plasticity in response to attention training in anxiety

  • S. Eldar (a1) and Y. Bar-Haim (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 23 July 2009

Behavioral studies show that attention training can alter threat bias, influence vulnerability to stress and reduce clinical anxiety symptoms. The aim of this study was to examine which cognitive functions of attention processing are modulated by attention training, and how a priori anxiety interacts with the attention training procedure. Specifically, we expected modulation in the P1/N1 event-related potential (ERP) complex if early spatial attention was to be affected by training and modulation in later ERP components (P2, N2, P3) had training affected top-down attentional processes.


Thirty anxious and 30 non-anxious adults performed a modified probe detection task. Electroencephalograms (EEGs) were recorded throughout for later ERP analyses. Half the participants in each anxiety group were randomly assigned to undergo a training procedure designed to divert their attention away from threat and the other half received placebo training.


Anxious participants who were trained to avoid threat showed a linear reduction in response time (RT) to targets replacing neutral faces with the progression of training. This change in RT was not observed among non-anxious participants or among anxious participants who were exposed to placebo training. Following training, the anxious participants who were trained to avoid threat showed a reduction in P2 and P3 mean amplitudes and an enhancement in N2 mean amplitude.


Attention training affects anxious participants whereas non-anxious participants seem not to respond to it. The ERP data suggest that attention training modulates top-down processes of attention control rather than processes of early attention orienting.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: S. Eldar, M.A., The Adler Center for Research in Child Developmental and Psychopathology, Department of Psychology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv69978, Israel. (Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

N Amir (2009). Attention modification program in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 118, 2833.

N Amir , R McNally , B Riemann , J Burns (1996). Suppression of the emotional Stroop effect by increased anxiety in patients with social phobia. Behaviour Research and Therapy 34, 945948.

N Amir , G Weber , C Beard , J Bomyea , CT Taylor (2008). The effect of a single session attention modification program on response to a public-speaking challenge in socially anxious individuals. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 117, 860868.

Y Bar-Haim , D Lamy , S Glickman (2005). Attentional bias in anxiety: a behavioral and ERP study. Brain and Cognition 59, 1122.

Y Bar-Haim , D Lamy , L Pergamin , MJ Bakermans-Kranenburg , MH van Ijendoorn (2007). Threat-related attentional bias in anxious and nonanxious individuals: a meta-analytic study. Psychological Bulletin 133, 124.

BP Bradley , K Mogg , SJ Falla , LR Hamilton (1998). Attention training for threatening facial expressions in anxiety: manipulation of sitmulus duration. Cognition and Emotion 12, 737753.

BP Bradley , K Mogg , N Millar , C Bonham-Carter , E Fergusson , J Jenkins , M Parr (1997). Attentional biases for emotional faces. Cognition and Emotion 11, 2542.

KJ Bruin , JL Kenemans , MN Verbaten , AHC Van der Heijden (2000). Habituation: an event-related potential and dipole source analysis study. International Journal of Psychophysiology 36, 199209.

L Carretie , JA Hinojosa , F Mercado (2003). Cerebral patterns of attentional habituation to emotional visual stimuli. Psychophysiology 40, 381388.

L Carretie , M Martin-Loeches , JA Hinojosa , F Mercado (2001 a). Emotion and attention interaction studied through event-related potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 13, 11091128.

L Carretie , F Mercado , M Tapia , JA Hinojosa (2001 b). Emotion, attention and the ‘negativity bias’, studied through event-related potentials. International Journal of Psychophysiology 41, 7585.

VP Clark , SA Hillyard (1996). Spatial selective attention affects early extrastriate but not striate components of the visual evoked potential. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 8, 387402.

TA Dennis , CC Chen (2007 a). Emotional face processing and attention performance in three domains: neurophysiological mechanisms and moderating effects of trait anxiety. International Journal of Psychophysiology 65, 1019.

TA Dennis , CC Chen (2007 b). Neurophysiological mechanisms in the emotional modulation of attention: the interplay between threat sensitivity and attentional control. Biological Psychology 76, 110.

V De Pascalis , E Strippoli , P Riccardi , F Vergari (2004). Personality, event-related potential (ERP) and heart rate (HR) in emotional word processing. Personality and Individual Differences 36, 873891.

S Eldar , T Ricon , Y Bar-Haim (2008). Plasticity in attention: implications for stress response in children. Behaviour Research and Therapy 46, 450461.

M Falkenstein , J Hoormann , J Hohnsbein (1999). ERP components in Go/Nogo tasks and their relation to inhibition. Acta Psychologica 101, 267291.

HM Fichtenholtz , JB Hopfinger , R Graham , JM Detwiler , KS LaBar (2007). Happy and fearful emotion in cues and targets modulate event-related potential indices of gaze-directed attentional orienting. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 2, 323333.

JR Flostein , C Van Perren (2008). Influence of cognitive control and mismatch on the N2 component of the ERP: a review. Psychophysiology 45, 152170.

D Friedman , YM Cycowicz , H Gaeta (2001). The novelty P3: an event-related brain potential (ERP) sign of the brain's evaluation of novelty. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 25, 355373.

RA Hazen , MW Vasy , NB Schmidt (2009). Attention retraining: a randomized clinical trial for pathological worry. Journal of Psychiatric Research 43, 627633.

JJ Heisz , S Watter , JM Shedden (2006). Progressive N170 habituation to unattended repeated faces. Vision Research 46, 4756.

SM Helfinstein , LK White , Y Bar-Haim , NA Fox (2008). Affective primes suppress attention bias to threat in socially anxious individuals. Behaviour Research and Therapy 46, 799810.

SA Hillyard , L Anllo-Vento (1998). Event-related brain potentials in the study of visual selective attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 95, 781787.

SA Hillyard , M Kutas (1983). Electrophysiology of cognitive processing. Annual Review of Psychology 34, 3361.

RJ Itier , MJ Taylor (2002). Inversion and contrast polarity reversal affect both encoding and recognition processes of unfamiliar faces: a repetition study using ERPs. Neuroimage 15, 353372.

B Kotchoubey , D Schneider , C Uhlmann , H Schleichert , N Birbaumer (1997). Beyond habituation: long-term repetition effects on visual event-related potentials in epileptic patients. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 103, 450456.

M Kutas , G McCarthy , E Donchin (1977). Augmenting mental chronimetry: the P300 as a measure of stimulus evaluation time. Science 197, 792795.

OG Lins , TW Picton , P Berg , M Scherg (1993). Ocular artifacts in EEG and event-related potentials. I: Scalp topography. Brain Topography 6, 5163.

SJ Luck , HJ Heinze , GR Mangun , SA Hillyard (1990). Visual event-related potentials index focused attention within bilateral stimulus arrays: II. Functional dissociation of P1 and N1 components. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 75, 528542.

C MacLeod , A Mathews , P Tata (1986). Attentional bias in emotional disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 95, 1520.

C MacLeod , E Rutherford , L Campbell , G Ebsworthy , L Holker (2002). Selective attention and emotional vulnerability: assessing the causal basis of their association through the experimental manipulation of attentional bias. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 111, 107123.

A Magliero , TR Bashore , MG Coles , E Donchin (1984). On the dependence of P300 latency on stimulus evaluation processes. Psychophysiology 21, 171186.

GR Mangun (1995). The neural mechanisms of visual selective attention. Psychophysiology 32, 4–18.

GR Mangun , LA Buck (1998). Sustained visual-spatial attention produces costs and benefits in response time and evoked neural activity. Neuropsychologia 36, 189200.

A Mathews , C MacLeod (2002). Induced processing biases have causal effects on anxiety. Cognition and Emotion 16, 331354.

G McCarthy , E Donchin (1981). A metric for thought: a comparison of P300 latency and reaction time. Science 211, 7779.

A Miller , AJ Tomarken (2001). Task-dependent changes in frontal brain asymmetry: effects of incentive cues, outcome expectancies, and motor responses. Psychophysiology 38, 500511.

K Mogg , BP Bradley (1998). A cognitive-motivational analysis of anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy 36, 809848.

K Mogg , J Kentish , BP Bradley (1993). Effects of anxiety and awareness on color-identification latencies for emotional words. Behaviour Research and Therapy 31, 559567.

CS Monk , EE Nelson , EB McClure , K Mogg , BP Bradley , E Leibenluft , RJR Blair , G Chen , DS Charney , M Ernst , DS Pine (2006). Ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activation and attentional bias in response to angry faces in adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 163, 10911097.

D Navon , B Margalit (1983). Allocation of attention according to informativeness in visual recognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. A, Human Experimental Psychology 35, 497512.

DS Pine , SM Helfinstein , Y Bar-Haim , E Nelson , NA Fox (2009). Challenges in developing novel treatments for childhood disorders: lessons from research on anxiety. Neuropsychopharmacology 34, 213228.

J Polich (2007). Updating P300: an integrative theory of P3a and P3b. Clinical Neurophysiology 118, 21282148.

DL Santesso , AE Meuret , SG Hofmann , EM Mueller , KG Ratner , EB Roesch , DA Pizzagalli (2008). Electrophysiological correlates of spatial orienting towards angry faces: a source localization study. Neuropsychologia 46, 13381348.

NB Schmidt , JA Richey , JD Buckner , KR Timpano (2009). Attention training for generalized social anxiety disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 118, 5–14.

SJ Segalowitz , AJ Wintink , LJ Cudmore (2001). P3 topographical change with task familiarization and task complexity. Cognitive Brain Research 12, 451457.

H Shoji , W Skrandies (2006). ERP topography and human perceptual learning in the peripheral visual field. International Journal of Psychophysiology 61, 179187.

L Songwei , T Jieqing , Q Mingyi , L Xinghua (2008). Continual training of attentional bias in social anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy 46, 905912.

JW Tanaka , LJ Pierce (2009). The neural plasticity of other-race face recognition. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience 9, 122231.

JM Williams , A Mathews , C MacLeod (1996). The emotional Stroop task and psychopathology. Psychological Bulletin 120, 3–24.

L Xinying , L Xuebing , L Yue-Jia (2005). Anxiety and attentional bias for threat: an event-related potential study. Neuroreport 16, 15011505.

S Yamaguchi , H Tsuchiya , S Kobayashi (1995). Electrophysiologic correlates of age effects on visuospatial attention shift. Cognitive Brain Research 3, 4149.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Eldar supplementary material

 Unknown (29 KB)
29 KB