A Randomized Controlled Trial of Gaze-contingent Music Reward Therapy for Major Depressive Disorder


Depression and Anxiety




BACKGROUND: Heightened attention allocation toward negative-valanced information and reduced attention allocation toward positive-valanced information represent viable targets for attention bias modification in major depressive disorder. Accordingly, we conducted a randomized controlled trial testing the efficacy of a novel gaze-contingent attention bias modification procedure for major depressive disorder. METHOD: Sixty patients with major depressive disorder were randomly assigned to either eight training sessions of feedback-based gaze-contingent music reward therapy designed to divert patients' gaze toward positive over sad stimuli, or to a control condition which entailed eight sessions of gaze-noncontingent music. Clinician-rated and self-reported measures of depression, and proportion of dwell-time on sad faces, were assessed pretreatment, posttreatment, and at a 3-month follow-up. RESULTS: Gaze-contingent music reward therapy produced a greater reduction in dwell-time on sad faces compared with the control condition, but it failed to generalize to novel faces. Both groups manifested similarly significant reductions in depression symptoms from pre- to posttreatment that were maintained at follow-up. Exploratory analyses suggest that first-episode patients may benefit more from this therapy than patients with a history of multiple episodes. CONCLUSIONS: Gaze-contingent music reward therapy can modify attention biases in depression, but clear differential clinical effects did not emerge. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Depression; Depressive Disorder; Mental Health; Mood Disorders; Mood Scales; Music Medicine; Music and Imagery; Psychological Outcomes; Self-Report Measures

Indexed Terms

Attentional Bias; Depressive Disorder, Major; Reward; Self Report; attention; attention allocation; attention bias; attention bias modification; depression; eye tracking; major depressive disorder

Study Type

Quantitative Methods; Randomized Controlled Trial

PubMed ID


Document Type