Dr. Amir’s primary research interest is experimental psychopathology with an emphasis on anxiety disorders. Specifically, he is interested in studying information-processing biases that may lead to the maintenance, and possibly the development of, anxiety disorders. To this end, he has used various paradigms that examine cognitive disturbances (e.g., attentional bias, implicit and explicit memory bias, interpretation bias) in anxious patients and normal individuals with elevated trait anxiety. This research has culminated in a theory of social anxiety that focuses on abnormalities in inhibition and activation of threat-relevant information in these individuals. The focus of Dr. Amir’s recent research has been on the application of the findings from experimental psychopathology to devise interventions for these disorders. For example, he has found that a computerized intervention designed to change attention bias in individuals with social anxiety is as effective as medication or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in ameliorating symptoms of social phobia. Moreover, the same intervention delivered as an acute, one session training, is effective in reducing response to a social challenge, i.e., public speaking task, in socially anxious individuals.
In 1994, ground-breaking research by Bradley Riemann, PhD (Rogers Memorial Hospital) and Nader Amir, PhD (San Diego State University) and others helped to establish the concept of attention bias in patients with OCD/anxiety by objectively measuring the theorized construct of this bias via a computer software program. Based on their initial research Drs. Riemann and Amir developed a computer-based software program that has been proven to successfully confront the cognitive biases of OCD/anxiety and PTSD, thus reducing the clinical symptoms based on their initial research to measure the biases.