Simon E. Blackwell on a 10-day study visit

Today Dr Simon E. Blackwell ended his 10-day study visit at our research lab by giving a much appreciated seminar. Here is the interesting abstract:

Depression is a major global health problem, and treatment innovation is required. “Cognitive Bias Modification” (CBM) paradigms offer the potential for novel treatment development via cognitive science. CBM aims to directly “re-train” cognitive biases via computer programs, rather than face-to-face therapy. We have developed a CBM paradigm, imagery CBM, which targets the deficit in positive future imagery observed in depression.

In this talk I will present the imagery CBM paradigm, and describe the process of its development from initial laboratory experiments with healthy volunteers (e.g. Holmes, Lang, & Shah, 2009), to a randomized controlled trial (RCT) currently in progress, via studies with analogue samples (Pictet, Coughtrey, Mathews, & Holmes, 2011), single case series (Blackwell & Holmes, 2010), and small initial clinical studies (Lang, Blackwell, Harmer, Davison, & Holmes, 2012). I will present recent work into understanding the basic mechanisms underlying the training (Clarke, Nanthakumar, Notebaert, Holmes, Blackwell, & MacLeod, in press), and combining imagery CBM with internet cognitive behaviour therapy (Williams, Blackwell, Mackenzie, Holmes, & Andrews, in press).

Finally, I will discuss a current ongoing RCT testing the efficacy of imagery CBM in depression when delivered via the internet, and how it forms part of a clinical translational process to develop novel cognitive interventions for depression, via an interweave of basic and translational research.


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Blackwell, S. E., & Holmes, E. A. (2010). Modifying interpretation and imagination in clinical depression: A single case series using cognitive bias modification. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 338-350. doi: 10.1002/acp.1680

Blackwell, S. E., Rius-Ottenheim, N., Schulte-van Maaren, Y. W. M., Carlier, I. V. E., Middelkoop, V. D., Zitman, F. G., Spinhoven, P., Holmes, E. A., & Giltay, E.J. (2013). Optimism and mental imagery: a possible modifiable cognitive marker to promote wellbeing? Psychiatry Research, 206, 56-61. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2012.09.047

Clarke, P. J. F., Nanthakumar, S., Notebaert, L., Holmes, E. A., Blackwell, S. E., & MacLeod, C. (in press). Simply imagining sunshine, lollipops and rainbows will not budge the bias: The role of ambiguity in interpretive bias modification. Cognitive Therapy and Research. doi: 10.1007/s10608-013-9564-x

Holmes, E. A., Lang, T. J., & Shah, D. M. (2009). Developing interpretation bias modification as a ‘cognitive vaccine’ for depressed mood: imagining positive events makes you feel better than thinking about them verbally. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118, 76-88. doi: 10.1037/a0012590

Lang, T.J., Blackwell, S.E., Harmer, C.J., Davison, P., & Holmes, E.A. (2012). Cognitive bias modification using mental imagery for depression: developing a novel computerized intervention to change negative thinking styles. European Journal of Personality, 26, p145-157. doi: 10.1002/per.855

Pictet, A., Coughtrey, A. E., Mathews, A., & Holmes, E. A. (2011). Fishing for happiness: The effects of positive imagery on interpretation bias and a behavioral task. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49, 885-891. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2011.10.003

Williams, A. D., Blackwell, S. E., Mackenzie, A., Holmes, E. A., & Andrews, G. (in press). Combining imagination and reason in the treatment of depression: A randomized controlled trial of internet-based cognitive bias modification and internet-CBT for depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. doi:10.1037/a0033247