Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) - the widely used yet controversial psychotherapy technique suppresses fear-related amygdala activity during recall of a traumatic memory, revealed two human experiments published in JNeurosci.
Despite being a common and evidence-based therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) -- discovered serendipitously in 1987 by a psychologist while walking in the woods -- it is unclear whether the eye movements in this treatment provide any additional benefits to patients struggling with fear-related disorders that are not readily achieved through traditional exposure therapy.
‘Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) takes edge off traumatic memories. ’
Investigating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying EMDR in healthy men and women, Lycia de Voogd and colleagues found that both side-to-side eye movement and a working memory task independently deactivated the amygdala -- a brain region critical for fear learning. The researchers show in a second experiment that this deactivation enhanced extinction learning -- a cognitive behavioral technique that reduces the association between a stimulus and a fear response. The reduced amygdala activity is thought to be a consequence of less available resources since they are dedicated to making eye movements.