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Behav Res Ther. 2009 Feb;47(2):139-45. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2008.11.002. Epub 2008 Nov 27.

Reducing depressive intrusions via a computerized cognitive bias modification of appraisals task: developing a cognitive vaccine.

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University of Oxford, Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, United Kingdom.


A feature of depression is the distressing experience of intrusive, negative memories. The maladaptive appraisals of such intrusions have been associated with symptom persistence. This study aimed to experimentally manipulate appraisals about depressive intrusions via a novel computerized cognitive bias modification (CBM) of appraisals paradigm, and to test the impact on depressive intrusion frequency for a standardized event (a depressive film). Forty-eight participants were randomly assigned to either a session of positive or negative CBM. Participants then watched a depressing film (including scenes of bereavement and bullying) and subsequently monitored the occurrence of depressive intrusions related to the film in a diary for one week. At one-week follow-up, participants completed additional measures of intrusions--the Impact of Event Scale (IES) and an intrusion provocation task. As predicted, compared to the negative condition, participants who underwent positive CBM showed a more positive appraisal bias. Further, one week later, positive CBM participants reported fewer intrusions of the film and had lower IES scores. Our findings demonstrate that it is possible to manipulate maladaptive appraisals about depressive intrusions via a computerized CBM task. Further, this effect transfers to reducing intrusive symptomatology related to a standardized event (a depressive film) over one week, suggesting novel clinical implications.

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