The efficacy and psychophysiological correlates of dual attention tasks in eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

Researcher Sarah Schubert

Supervisors Dr Chris Lee, Professor Peter Drummon

Date: January, 2010

This study investigated the psychophysiological correlates and the effectiveness of different dual-attention tasks used during EMDR. Non-clinical (n = 62) participants with negative autobiographical memories received a single EMDR session that involved fixed or varied rate eye movements, or exposure without eye movements. Subjective units of distress (SUDs) and vividness ratings of the memory were recorded at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 1 week follow-up. EMDR-with eye movements led to greater reduction in SUDs than EMDR-without eye movements. Heart rate decreased significantly when eye movements began; skin conductance decreased during eye movement sets; heart rate variability and respiration rate increased significantly as eye movements continued; and orienting responses were more frequent in the eye movement conditions than in the no-eye movement condition at the start of exposure. These findings indicate that eye movements in EMDR are beneficial, and are coupled with distinct physiological changes that may aid the processing of negative memories.

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