Domain-specific cognitive training treatments for pediatric anxiety disorders rely on accurate and reliable identification of specific underlying deficits and biases in neurocognitive functions. Once identified, such biases can serve as specific targets for therapeutic intervention. Clinical translations typically reflect mechanized training protocols designed to rectify the identified biases. Here, we review and synthesize research on key neurocognitive processes that emerge as potential targets for specialized cognitive training interventions in pediatric anxiety disorders in the domains of attention, interpretation, error monitoring, working memory, and fear learning. For each domain, we describe the current status of target establishment (i.e., an association between pediatric anxiety and a specific neurocognitive process), and then review extant translational efforts regarding these targets and the evidence supporting their clinical utility in youths. We then localize each of the domains within the path leading to efficacious, evidence-supported treatments for pediatric anxiety, providing a roadmap for future research. The review indicates that specific cognitive targets in pediatric anxiety have been established in all the reviewed domains except for fear learning, where a clear target is yet to be elucidated. In contrast, evidence for clinical efficacy emerged only in the threat-related attention domain, with some preliminary findings in the domains of interpretation and working memory. The path to clinical translation in the domain of error monitoring is yet unclear. Implications and potential avenues for future research and translation are discussed.
- Cognitive bias modification
- Fear learning