BACKGROUND: Interpretation biases (IBs) are central in panic disorder, and there is rich evidence showing that these are correlated with and predictive of panic-relevant symptomatology. However, experimental studies are needed to examine the potential causal effects of IBs, as predicted by cognitive models. METHODS: Panic-related IBs were manipulated via a sentence-completion Cognitive Bias Modification-Interpretation (CBM-I) training. The sample included N = 112 healthy participants reporting moderate levels of fear of bodily sensations. Participants were randomly allocated to a positive, negative, or control CBM-I condition. To test the trainings' effect on panic-relevant cognitive processing, IBs were assessed via proximal and distal measures. Symptom provocation tasks were applied to test transfer to panic-relevant symptomatology. RESULTS: Results on the proximal measure showed that positive CBM-I led to more positive IBs compared to negative, and control training. Further, positive CBM-I led to more positive IBs on the distal measure as compared to negative CBM-I. However, there were no differential training effects on panic-related symptomatology triggered via the provocation tasks. CONCLUSION: The findings indicate a limited generalization of the effects of CBM-I on IBs and panic-related symptoms. Potential means to improve generalization, such as applying more nuanced measures and combining CBM-I with psychoeducation are discussed.
Cognit Ther Res
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Cognitive bias modification, Experimental psychopathology, Interpretation bias, Panic disorder, Symptom provocation