Threat-related attention bias variability and posttraumatic stress

Reut Naim*, Rany Abend, Ilan Wald, Sharon Eldar, Ofir Levi, Eyal Fruchter, Karen Ginat, Pinchas Halpern, Maurice L. Sipos, Amy B. Adler, Paul D. Bliese, Phillip J. Quartana, Daniel S. Pine, Yair Bar-Haim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Threat monitoring facilitates survival by allowing one to efficiently and accurately detect potential threats. Traumatic events can disrupt healthy threat monitoring, inducing biased and unstable threat-related attention deployment. Recent research suggests that greater attention bias variability, that is, attention fluctuations alternating toward and away from threat, occurs in participants with PTSD relative to healthy comparison subjects who were either exposed or not exposed to traumatic events. The current study extends findings on attention bias variability in PTSD. Method: Previous measurement of attention bias variability was refined by employing a moving average technique. Analyses were conducted across seven independent data sets; in each, data on attention bias variability were collected by using variants of the dot-probe task. Trauma-related and anxiety symptoms were evaluated across samples by using structured psychiatric interviews and widely used self-report questionnaires, as specified for each sample. Results: Analyses revealed consistent evidence of greater attention bias variability in patients with PTSD following various types of traumatic events than in healthy participants, participants with social anxiety disorder, and participants with acute stress disorder. Moreover, threat-related, and not positive, attention bias variability was correlated with PTSD severity. Conclusions: These findings carry possibilities for using attention bias variability as a specific cognitive marker of PTSD and for tailoring protocols for attention bias modification for this disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1242-1250
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015


FundersFunder number
National Institute of Mental HealthZIAMH002781


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