Reducing Pediatric Anxiety through Training: an Integrative Neurocognitive Approach

Jennifer C. Britton, Danielle V. Dellarco, Travis C. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Neurocognitive interventions that target specific cognitive mechanisms underlying anxiety symptoms (e.g., attention bias to threat, negatively biased interpretations) have been applied to youth samples. Here, we review the current attention bias modification (ABM) and cognitive bias modification (CBM) literature together and discuss approaches to develop additional neurocognitive interventions for anxious youth. Recent Findings: In youth, ABM which trains attention away from threat typically does not change threat bias, but yields anxiety symptom reductions. However, few ABM studies show enhanced anxiety-related gains for active ABM compared to placebo training (i.e., attention directed equally to threat and neutral). Attention training towards positive information also reduces anxiety symptoms, but effects on behavior are mixed. In contrast to ABM, CBM in youth samples usually changes interpretations, but has little impact on anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, neurocognitive approaches for pediatric anxiety can be extended from adult anxiety treatments, adapted from other forms of psychopathology, or created to target other cognitive processing deficits in anxiety using novel methodology. Summary: More work, especially in clinical samples, is needed. To apply neurocognitive interventions in youth and to elucidate the mechanisms underlying changes in targeted behavior and anxiety, the development of cognitive function and the underlying neural circuitry must be a key factor when designing training programs. Future research is needed to refine, investigate, and create neurocognitive interventions for anxiety, especially in developmental samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-253
Number of pages23
JournalCurrent Behavioral Neuroscience Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Approach-avoidance
  • Attention bias modification
  • Cognitive bias modification
  • Development
  • Discrimination
  • Flexibility
  • Generalization
  • Reconsolidation update mechanisms
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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