Home-based cognitive bias modification training for reducing maladaptive fear in patients with suspected acute coronary syndrome: a pilot randomized clinical trial

David Lopez-Veneros, Robin Cumella, Ian M. Kronish, Amit Lazarov, Jeffrey L. Birk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Patients evaluated in an emergency department for suspected acute coronary syndromes (ACS; e.g., myocardial infarction) often experience a lingering fear of recurrence, which may adversely affect their mental health and adherence to recommended health behaviors. Cognitive bias modification training (CBMT) is an acceptable, easy-to-use intervention that reduces fear of recurrence in cancer patients, and reduces fear and anxiety in other populations, providing an alternative to psychotherapy or counseling-based approaches. Feasibility testing is needed to assess whether a cardiac-related version of CBMT is acceptable to patients with elevated threat perceptions related to their suspected ACS. Methods: We developed a tablet-based CBMT intervention tailored to reduce cardiac-related fear of recurrence. In this double-blinded feasibility trial, patients with elevated threat perceptions related to a recent suspected ACS were randomized either to a 4-week, 8-session, tablet-delivered intervention (CBMT) group or to a sham attention control group. Feasibility outcomes included the proportion of eligible patients who enrolled, drop-out rate, intervention compliance rate, acceptability/pleasantness and usability ratings, and task engagement (i.e., accuracy, response time). Results: Of 49 eligible patients with suspected ACS and elevated threat perceptions recruited from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, over half (53.1%) enrolled after receiving a description of study procedures. Of the 26 randomized patients (mean age 59.15 years, 50% women), 2 patients (7.7%) dropped out. Additionally, 4 (15.4%) enrolled patients were not able to complete the tablet tasks, either due to difficulties with the technology or an inability to process the visually presented linguistic information at a sufficient speed. Still, among patients who returned the tablets (19 returned/20 received; 95%), most completed all assigned tablet tasks (intervention or control; 10/19; 52.6%), reporting that the tablets were easy to use and that the tasks were pleasant to complete. Conclusion: Current findings suggest that cardiac-related CBMT is a promising and generally acceptable intervention for suspected ACS patients with cardiac-related threat perceptions which are akin to fear of recurrence. Nevertheless, challenges related to tablet usage indicate that the intervention user-experience should be further refined to optimize usability. Trial registration: Registered at ClinicalTrials.gov on 2/25/2019; NCT03853213. Registered with the Open Science Framework on 11/20/2017; https://osf.io/k7g8c/ .

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


FundersFunder number
National Institutes of Health
National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteR21HL145970
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


    • Acute coronary syndrome
    • Cognitive bias modification training
    • Fear of recurrence
    • Feasibility
    • Intervention


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