Case study: Gaze-contingent music reward therapy for social anxiety disorder

Background image

Researchers at Tel Aviv University used SMI Eye Tracking to study music reward therapy for treating social anxiety disorder.

Challenge

Patients with social anxiety disorder suffer distress and an impaired ability to function when they are placed in social situations. They are also known to dwell on perceived social threats, so, based on this knowledge, researchers used SMI Eye Tracking to determine the impact of gaze-contingent music reward therapy in treating the disorder.

How would rewarding participants with music reduce the time they fixated on images of other people that they found threatening?

Solution

Volunteers in this study by the School of Psychological Sciences and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University, were shown a matrix of 16 disgusted and neutral faces. Patients in the gaze contingent music reward therapy group (as opposed to the control group) heard their selected music play only when fixating on one of the neutral faces in a matrix (the neutral area of interest).

When fixating on one of the disgusted faces (the threat area of interest) the music stopped. Over eight sessions, researchers wanted to see the extent to which the music reward reduced the dwell time on the disgusted faces.

SMI Eye Tracking

This study involved measuring the very fast movements of the eye as participants fixated upon the threatening or neutral faces. For this, the researchers placed an SMI high-speed eye tracker with a sample rate of up to 500 Hz below a computer monitor that displayed the stimulus images.

Benefit

"Fourteen patients (70%) in the gaze-contingent music reward therapy group achieved clinically significant change post treatment, compared with six patients (30%) in the control group," researchers found. They concluded that gaze contingent music reward therapy was significantly more effective than a control condition in reducing both clinician rated and self-reported social anxiety disorder symptoms post treatment.

Background

Attention bias modification refers to a novel group of treatments grounded in cognitive neuroscience. In the present study, gaze contingent music reward therapy targets eye gaze, which reflects dynamic allocation of attention to stimuli, unlike most forms of attention bias modification, which target reaction-time-based biases.

Benefit

"Fourteen patients (70%) in the gaze-contingent music reward therapy group achieved clinically significant change post treatment, compared with six patients (30%) in the control group," researchers found. They concluded that gaze contingent music reward therapy was significantly more effective than a control condition in reducing both clinician rated and self-reported social anxiety disorder symptoms post treatment.