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January 27, 2023



A double-blind phase II randomized controlled trial of an online cognitive bias modification for interpretation program with and without psychoeducation for people with chronic pain.


Cognitive bias modification for interpretation (CBM-I) is an effective intervention for anxiety, but there is only a single trial in people with chronic pain. The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to test CBM-I with and without psychoeducation for people with chronic pain. We randomized 288 participants to 4 groups comprising treatment (CBM-I vs placebo) with or without psychoeducation. One hundred and eighty-three participants (64%) completed 4, 15-minute training sessions over 2 weeks. The coprimary outcomes were pain interference and pain intensity. We also measured interpretation bias, fear of movement, catastrophizing, depression, anxiety, and stress. Participants with more psychopathology at baseline were more likely to dropout, as were those allocated to psychoeducation. Intention-to-treat analyses using linear mixed models regression were conducted. Training effects of CBM-I were found on interpretation bias, but not a near-transfer task. Cognitive bias modification of interpretation improved both primary outcomes compared with placebo. For pain interference, there was also a main effect favoring psychoeducation. The CBM-I group improved significantly more than placebo for fear of movement, but not catastrophizing, depression, or anxiety. Cognitive bias modification of interpretation reduced stress but only for those who also received psychoeducation. This trial shows that CBM-I has promise in the management of pain, but there was limited evidence that psychoeducation improved the efficacy of CBM-I. Cognitive bias modification of interpretation was administered entirely remotely and is highly scalable, but future research should focus on paradigms that lead to better engagement of people with chronic pain with CBM-I.