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BACKGROUND: We have developed a new paradigm that targets the recognition of facial expression of emotions. Here we report the protocol of a randomised controlled trial of the effects of emotion recognition training on mood in a sample of individuals with depressive symptoms over a 6-week follow-up period. METHODS/DESIGN: We will recruit 190 adults from the general population who report high levels of depressive symptoms (defined as a score ≥ 14 on the Beck Depression Inventory-II). Participants will attend a screening session and will be randomised to intervention or control procedures, repeated five times over consecutive days (Monday to Friday). A follow-up session will take place at end-of -treatment, 2-weeks and 6-weeks after training. Our primary study outcome will be depressive symptoms, Beck Depression Inventory- II (rated over the past two weeks). Our secondary outcomes are: depressive symptoms, Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression; anxiety symptoms, Beck Anxiety Inventory (rated over the past month); positive affect, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (rated as 'how you feel right now'); negative affect, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (rated as 'how you feel right now'); emotion sensitivity, Emotion Recognition Task (test phase); approach motivation and persistence, the Fishing Game; and depressive interpretation bias, Scrambled Sentences Test. DISCUSSION: This study is of a novel cognitive bias modification technique that targets biases in emotional processing characteristic of depression, and can be delivered automatically via computer, Internet or Smartphone. It therefore has potential to be a valuable cost-effective adjunctive treatment for depression which may be used together with more traditional psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials: ISRCTN17767674.

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Affect, Clinical Protocols, Cognitive Therapy, Depression, Emotions, England, Facial Expression, Humans, Judgment, Motivation, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Recognition (Psychology), Research Design, Therapy, Computer-Assisted, Time Factors, Treatment Outcome