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Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

Cognitive bias modification to prevent depression (COPE): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Osvaldo P Almeida123*, Colin MacLeod4, Andrew Ford123, Ben Grafton4, Varsha Hirani12, David Glance5 and Emily Holmes6

Author Affiliations

1 Western Australian Centre for Health & Ageing (M573), Centre for Medical Research of the Perkins Institute for Medical Research, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

2 School of Psychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

3 Department of Psychiatry, Royal Perth Hospital, Level 6, Ainslie House, 48 Murray Street, PerthWA 6000, Australia

4 School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

5 Centre for Software Practice, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

6 MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 7EF, UK

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Trials 2014, 15:282  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-282

Published: 11 July 2014

Abstract

Background

Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and, although efficacious treatments are available, their efficacy is suboptimal and recurrence of symptoms is common. Effective preventive strategies could reduce disability and the long term social and health complications associated with the disorder, but current options are limited. Cognitive bias modification (CBM) is a novel, simple, and safe intervention that addresses attentional and interpretive biases associated with anxiety, dysphoria, and depression. The primary aim of this trial is to determine if CBM decreases the one-year onset of a major depressive episode among adults with subsyndromal depression.

Design and methods

This randomised controlled trial will recruit 532 adults with subsyndromal symptoms of depression living in the Australian community (parallel design, 1:1 allocation ratio). Participants will be free of clinically significant symptoms of depression and of psychotic disorders, sensory and cognitive impairment, and risky alcohol use. The CBM intervention will target attentional and interpretive biases associated with depressive symptoms. The sessions will be delivered via the internet over a period of 52 weeks. The primary outcome of interest is the onset of a major depressive episode according the DSM-IV-TR criteria over a 12-month period. Secondary outcomes of interest include change in the severity of depressive symptoms as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), use of antidepressants or benzodiazepines, and changes in attention and interpretive biases. The assessment of outcomes will take place 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after randomisation and will occur via the internet.

Discussion

We propose to test the efficacy of an innovative intervention that is well grounded in theory and for which increasing empirical evidence for an effect on mood is available. The intervention is simple, inexpensive, easy to access, and could be easily rolled out into practice if our findings confirm a role for CBM in the prevention of depression.

Trial registration

Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12613001334796. Date: 5th December 2013.

Keywords:
Anxiety; Cognitive bias modification; Depression; Depressive disorder; Indicated prevention; Prevention; Randomised controlled trial