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Attention biases, anxiety, and development: toward or away from threats or rewards?


  • The authors disclose the following financial relationships within the past 3 years: The paper was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Mental Heatlh.

Correspondence to: Tomer Shechner, Section on Developmental Affective Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Building 15K, Rm. 208, Bethesda, MD 20892


Research on attention provides a promising framework for studying anxiety pathophysiology and treatment. The study of attention biases appears particularly pertinent to developmental research, as attention affects learning and has down-stream effects on behavior. This review summarizes recent findings about attention orienting in anxiety, drawing on findings in recent developmental psychopathology and affective neuroscience research. These findings generate specific insights about both development and therapeutics. The review goes beyond a traditional focus on biased processing of threats and considers biased processing of rewards. Building on this work, we then turn to the treatment of pediatric anxiety, where manipulation of attention to threat and/or reward may serve a therapeutic role as a component of Attention Bias Modification Therapy. Depression and Anxiety 0:1–13, 2011.  © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.