Alcohol CBM Project


The cognitive bias modification (CBM) research tests whether 4 short sessions of “brain-training”, using a laptop and joystick and delivered while clients are in residential withdrawal treatment, helps people avoid relapse to alcohol use after discharge from treatment. The majority of people relapse to alcohol use after leaving withdrawal treatment, usually within a few weeks. One potential reason for this is that many people with an alcohol use disorder appear to develop “approach bias” towards alcohol, meaning an automatic tendency to approach alcohol in response to signals (such as images, smells, etc.) that remind them of alcohol. This “approach bias” might not be fully under one’s conscious control.

Our randomised controlled trial (RCT) is comparing a computerised CBM training task that is designed to dampen approach bias to another similar task that uses the same images and equipment, but which is not specifically designed to change approach bias, to see whether the CBM task leads to higher rates of abstinence from alcohol after people leave residential withdrawal treatment. We are running this at 3 residential withdrawal units around Melbourne from 2017-2019. We believe that reducing rates of relapse will also reduce the burden on the health care system, in terms of repeated readmissions to withdrawal treatment, and emergency service use, and are measuring use of these services following treatment to test whether this is the case. In addition, we are also running a smaller study of whether this CBM approach is feasible in people undergoing residential withdrawal from methamphetamine.

Project Team

Associate Professor Victoria Manning, Dr Joshua Garfield, Professor Antonio Verdejo-Garcia*, Professor Dan Lubman, Associate Professor Petra K. Staiger**, Dr Kate Hall**, and Associate Professor Jarrad Lum**.

*School of Psychological Sciences & Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, Monash University, Melbourne
**School of Psychology, Deakin University, Melbourne