Attention-control video game curbs combat vets' PTSD symptoms

July 24, 2015

A computerized attention-control training program significantly reduced combat veterans' preoccupation with - or avoidance of -- threat and attendant PTSD symptoms. By contrast, another type of computerized training, called attention bias modification - which has proven helpful in treating anxiety disorders - did not reduce PTSD symptoms. NIMH and Israeli researchers conducted parallel trials in which the two treatments were tested in US and Israeli combat veterans.

Daniel Pine, M.D., of the NIMH Emotion and Development Branch, Yair Bar-Haim, Ph.D., School of Psychological Sciences, Tel Aviv University, and colleagues, report on their findings July 24, 2015 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

While attention bias modification trains attention either away from or toward threat, attention-control training implicitly teaches participants that threatening stimuli are irrelevant to performing their task. It requires them to attend equally to threatening and neutral stimuli. The study determined that this reduced symptoms by reducing attention bias variability. Attention control training balances such moment-to-moment fluctuations in attention bias from threat vigilance to threat avoidance, which correlated with the severity of PTSD symptoms and distinguished PTSD patients from healthy controls and patients with social anxiety or acute stress disorders.

Effect of attention training on attention bias variability and PTSD symptoms: randomized controlled trials in Israeli and US combat veterans. Badura-Brack AS, Naim R, Ryan TJ, Levy O, Abend R, Khanna MM, McDermott TJ, Pine WSD, Bar-Haim Y. American Journal of Psychiatry, July 24, 2015. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14121578.

Threat-related attention bias variability and posttraumatic stress. Naim R, Abend R, Wald I, Eldar S, Levi O, Fruchter E, Ginat K, Halpern P, Sipos M, Adler AB, Bliese PD, Quartana PJ, Pine DS, Bar-Haim Y. American Journal of Psychiatry, July 24, 2015. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14121579.

CLINICAL TRIAL ID: NCT015564667, NCT01368302

The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the

NIH/National Institute of Mental Health

Related Attention Articles from Brightsurf:

Corporations directing our attention online more than we realize
It's still easy to think we're in control when browsing the internet, but a new study argues much of that is ''an illusion.'' Corporations are ''nudging'' us online more than we realize, and often in hidden ways.

How mobile apps grab our attention
Aalto University researchers alongside international collaborators have done the first empirical study on how users pay visual attention to mobile app designs.

Gulls pay attention to human eyes
Herring gulls notice where approaching humans are looking, and flee sooner when they're being watched, a new study shows.

Paying attention to the neurons behind our alertness
The neurons of layer 6 - the deepest layer of the cortex - were examined by researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University to uncover how they react to sensory stimulation in different behavioral states.

Toddlers who use touchscreens show attention differences
New research from the TABLET project recruited 12-month-old infants who had different levels of touchscreen usage.

Changes in brain attention may underlie autism
New research in JNeurosci explores how a particular region of the brainstem might explain differences in attention in people with autism.

Babies from bilingual homes switch attention faster
Babies born into bilingual homes change the focus of their attention more quickly and more frequently than babies in homes where only one language is spoken, according to new research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

A surprising new source of attention in the brain
Scientists find a new brain area in control of our attention skills, raising new questions in what has long been considered a settled scientific field.

Controlling attention with brain waves
Having trouble paying attention? MIT neuroscientists may have a solution for you: Turn down your alpha brain waves.

People pay more attention to stimuli they associate with danger
A new analysis of how people prioritize their attention when determining safety and danger in busy settings, such as crossing a road, suggests that a person will pay more attention to something if they learn it is associated with danger.

Read More: Attention News and Attention Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to