The effects of Cognitive Bias Modification training and oxytocin administration on trust in maternal support: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Martine W.F.T. Verhees*, Eva Ceulemans, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Marinus H. van Ijzendoorn, Simon de Winter, Guy Bosmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Lack of trust in parental support is a transdiagnostic risk factor for the development of psychological problems throughout the lifespan. Research suggests that children's cognitive attachment representations and related information processing biases could be an important target for interventions aiming to build trust in the parent-child relationship. A paradigm that can alter these biases and increase trust is that of Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM), during which a target processing bias is systematically trained. Trust-related CBM training effects could possibly be enhanced by oxytocin, a neuropeptide that has been proposed to play an important role in social information processing and social relationships. The present article describes the study protocol for a double-blind randomized controlled trial (RCT) aimed at testing the individual and combined effects of CBM training and oxytocin administration on trust in maternal support. Methods/design: One hundred children (aged 8-12 years) are randomly assigned to one of four intervention conditions. Participants inhale a nasal spray that either contains oxytocin (OT) or a placebo. Additionally, they receive either a CBM training aimed at positively modifying trust-related information processing bias or a neutral placebo training aimed to have no trust-related effects. Main and interaction effects of the interventions are assessed on three levels of trust-related outcome measures: trust-related interpretation bias; self-reported trust; and mother-child interactional behavior. Importantly, side-effects of a single administration of OT in middle childhood are monitored closely to provide further information on the safety of OT administration in this age group. Discussion: The present RCT is the first study to combine CBM training with oxytocin to test for individual and combined effects on trust in mother. If effective, CBM training and oxytocin could be easily applicable and nonintrusive additions to interventions that target trust in the context of the parent-child relationship. Trial registration:, ID: NCT02737254. Registered on 23 March 2016.

Original languageEnglish
Article number326
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Attachment
  • Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM)
  • Interpretation bias
  • Middle childhood
  • Oxytocin
  • Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)
  • Trust


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