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A negative bias in the deployment of attention to emotional stimuli is commonly found in both anxiety and depression. Recent work has highlighted that such biases are causally related to emotional vulnerability, suggesting that interventions that ameliorate them may be therapeutic. Here, we review the evidence that attentional bias can be modified using both pharmacological and psychological interventions. We highlight the behavioral and neuroimaging studies that suggest that these interventions impact upon attention via alteration of distinct neural mechanisms. Specifically, pharmacological interventions appear to influence the initial deployment of attention via an effect on the amygdala-based stimulus appraisal system, whereas psychological interventions influence attention at later time points and may alter activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex. Finally, we suggest a conceptual framework that embraces both pharmacological and psychological approaches and consider the possible implications of this work for future research and treatment development.

Original publication




Journal article


Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci

Publication Date





8 - 20


Attention, Bias, Emotions, Humans, Mood Disorders