Internet-delivered cognitive bias modification: Can this novel digital health program improve anxiety and hazardous drinking among young people?


  • Katrina Prior The University of Sydney
  • Lexine Stapinski The University of Sydney
  • Elske Salemink Utrecht University
  • Monique Piggott The University of Sydney
  • Bethany Teachman University of Virginia
  • Victoria Manning Monash University
  • Nicola Newton The University of Sydney
  • Maree Teesson The University of Sydney
  • Reinout Wiers University of Amsterdam


Introduction: Up to 60% of young people who receive treatment for alcohol use quickly relapse to heavy drinking, particularly those who drink to alleviate anxiety symptoms. Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) digital interventions are effective add-on treatments for these disorders individually; however, there is little research on the effectiveness of CBM in treating co-occurring alcohol use problems and anxiety. This presentation will outline the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of an online CBM program for young adults with comorbid anxiety and alcohol use problems (‘Re-Train Your Brain’).

Methods: Australian youth aged 18-30 (n=100) with anxiety and hazardous alcohol use were randomised to receive the 10-session online Re-Train Your Brain CBM intervention plus treatment as usual (TAU) or TAU only. Assessments of anxiety, alcohol use, anxiety interpretation biases, and alcohol approach biases occurred at baseline, 6 weeks and 3 months post-baseline. Feasibility (e.g., adherence, study attrition) and acceptability (e.g., assessed by the System Usability Scale [SUS] and Client Satisfaction Questionnaire [CSQ]) were assessed at the 6-week time-point.

Results: The study was deemed feasible, with high levels of adherence (81% completed at least one training session, with an average of M=5.5 sessions completed) and high follow-up rates (60-75%). SUS scores (M=84.0) indicate the program is “excellent” and associated with a positive user experience, and CSQ scores (M=24.8) indicate moderate to high satisfaction with the intervention. Efficacy analyses are currently underway.

Conclusion: This world-first digital CBM program carries enormous potential to improve outcomes in a complex group that respond poorly to standard treatments.





Oral Presentations