Attention Bias Reduction in Individuals with Williams Syndrome

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The Ohio State University

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Individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) have high levels of anxiety. In attention tracking tasks, individuals with WS and typically developing individuals with high levels of anxiety allocate greater attention to threatening images than typical individuals. In individuals with high levels of anxiety, Attention Bias Reduction (ABR) tasks reduce attention bias and anxiety symptoms. The purpose of this project is to investigate the use of ABR to reduce attention bias toward pictures of lightning in individuals with WS. This research includes two studies. Study One is an internet based survey in which individuals with WS rate nonthreatening (nature scenes) and threatening (lightning) images. Study One demonstrates that individuals with WS rate pictures of lightning as significantly more upsetting (mean=4.92) than other nature scenes (mean=1.44, t(19)=19.80, p<.001). The results support lightning images as a stimulus for Study Two. Study Two utilizes reaction time and eye-tracking methodology during an ABR task, with each stimulus presentation consisting of one threatening image (lightning) and one nonthreatening image, followed by a probe. During pre and post-testing, the probe is placed randomly, but during ABR training the probe always follows the nonthreatening image. Individuals with WS show a faster reaction time to lighting images, even after ABR training, but this attention bias is not confirmed by the eye-tracking data. Future studies should consider reducing stimulus presentation time and increasing ABR training sessions to better evaluate the effectiveness of ABR training to reduce anxiety in individuals with WS.


The Ohio State University Newark Research Forum Second place for Oral Presentation


Attention bias, Dot probe, Williams syndrome, Eye-tracking