EMDR Research News July 2018

In this posting there are 10 new articles to report related to EMDR therapy. 3 articles have links to the open access full text article.

3 are Randomized Controlled Trials
  • Emergency room intervention to prevent post concussion-like symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol (EMDR-IGTP) Applied to Caregivers of Patients With Dementia
  • EMDR Group Intervention for Syrian Refugees With Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms

2 are Quasi-experimental Studies
  • Inpatient Treatment of Complex PTSD Following Childhood Abuse: Effectiveness and Predictors of Treatment Outcome
  • Dealing With the Aftermath of Mass Disasters: EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol With Child Survivors of the 2016 Italy Earthquakes

1 is an individual case report
  • EMDR Therapy in the Treatment of a Hillsborough Survivor with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

2 are Review or Meta-analysis articles
  • Psychological therapies for the treatment of mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries affected by humanitarian crises
  • The Use of EMDR Therapy in Treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder-A Systematic Narrative Review
  • 1 is a Laboratory Study
  • Lateral Eye Movements Increase False Memory Rates

1 is a Theoretical Paper on Mechanism of Action
  • EMDR as a treatment for PTSD: current neurobiological theories and a new hypothesis

With each reference below, you will find the citation, abstract and author contact information (when available). Prior quarterly summaries of journal articles can be found on the
EMDRIA website and a comprehensive listing of all EMDR-related research is available at the Francine Shapiro Library. EMDRIA members can access recent Journal of EMDR Practice and Research articles in the member’s area on the EMDRIA website. JEMDR issues older than 12 months are available open access on IngentaConnect.


Journal Articles

Calancie, O. G., Khalid-Khan, S., Booij, L., & Munoz, D. P. (2018). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing as a treatment for PTSD: current neurobiological theories and a new hypothesis. Ann N Y Acad Sci.

Olivia G. Calancie and Douglas P. Munoz, Ph.D., Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen’s University, 18 Stuart Street, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada. olivia.calancie@queensu.ca; douglas.munoz@queensu.ca


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a form of psychotherapy for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has long been a controversial topic, hampered in part by a lack of understanding of the neural mechanisms that contribute to its remedial effect. Here, we review current theories describing EMDR's potential neurobiological mechanisms of action involving working memory, interhemispheric communication, de-arousal, and memory reconsolidation. We then discuss recent studies describing the temporal and spatial aspects of smooth pursuit and predictive saccades, which resemble those made during EMDR, and their neural correlates within the default mode network (DMN) and cerebellum. We hypothesize that if the production of bilateral predictive eye movements is supportive of DMN and cerebellum activation, then therapies that shift the brain towards this state correspondingly would benefit the processes regulated by these structures (i.e., memory retrieval, relaxation, and associative learning), all of which are essential components for PTSD recovery. We propose that the timing of sensory stimulation may be relevant to treatment effect and could be adapted across different patients depending on their baseline saccade metrics. Empirical data in support of this model are reviewed and experimental predictions are discussed.


Farrell, D. (2018). EMDR Therapy in the Treatment of a Hillsborough Survivor with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Personal Injury Law, 2(2), 146-158.

Derek Farrell, University of Worcester, Institute of Health & Society, Psychology, Henwick Grove, Worcester, WR2 6AJ; Tel: +44 1905 542443; Email: d.farrell@worc.ac.uk


On 26 April 2017, the Hillsborough Inquiry concluded that 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed and that police and emergency services were negligent. The Hillsborough Disaster on 15 April 1989, remains the most serious tragedy to date in UK sporting history. Its legacy is that thousands of survivors experienced physical injury and/or long-term psychological trauma and harm. Many survivors encounter Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), a significant mental health issue that has a pervasive impact in levels of functioning and generates high levels of distress. This paper will explore the key features of PTSD, it’s neurobiological underpinnings and consider safe, effective, efficient and empirically validated psychological treatment interventions. One evidence-based treatment intervention, EMDR Therapy, will be outlined demonstrating the core elements of the psychotherapeutic approach, mechanisms of action and its subsequent application with a Hillsborough survivor who sought psychological treatment for the first time, 26 years after the disaster. Furthermore, the paper will provide a context as to why personal injury lawyers need to be conversant with psychological trauma, PTSD, core symptoms, maintenance factors and possible treatment interventions.


Gil-Jardiné, C., Evrard, G., Al Joboory, S., Tortes Saint Jammes, J., Masson, F., Ribéreau-Gayon, R. et al. (2018). Emergency room intervention to prevent post concussion-like symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder. A pilot randomized controlled study of a brief eye movement desensitization and reprocessing intervention versus reassurance or usual care. J Psychiatr Res, 103, 229-236. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2018.05.024

Cédric Gil-Jardiné, University Hospital of Bordeaux, Pellegrin Hospital, Emergency Department, Place Amélie Raba-Léon, 33000 Bordeaux, France. E-mail: cedric.gil-jardine@chu-bordeaux.fr


Up to 20% of patients presenting at an emergency room (ER) after a stressful event will for several months suffer from very diverse long-lasting symptoms and a potentially significant decline in quality of life, often described as post concussion-like symptoms (PCLS). The objectives of our randomized open-label single-center study were to assess the feasibility of psychologist-led interventions in the context of the ER and to compare the effect of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) with reassurance and usual care. Conducted in the ER of Bordeaux University Hospital, the study included patients with a high risk of PCLS randomized in three groups: a 15-min reassurance session, a 60-min session of EMDR, and usual care. Main outcomes were the proportion of interventions that could be carried out and the prevalence of PCSL and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) three months after the ER visit. One hundred and thirty patients with a high risk of PCLS were randomized. No logistic problem or patient refusal was observed. In the EMDR, reassurance and control groups, proportions of patients with PCLS at three months were 18%, 37% and 65% and those with PTSD were 3%, 16% and 19% respectively. The risk ratio for PCLS adjusted for the type of event (injury, non-injury) for the comparison between EMDR and control was 0.36 [95% CI 0.20-0.66]. This is the first randomized controlled trial that shows that a short EMDR intervention is feasible and potentially effective in the context of the ER. The study was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03194386).


Houben, S. T. L., Otgaar, H., Roelofs, J., & Merckelbach, H. (2018). Lateral Eye Movements Increase False Memory Rates. Clinical Psychological Science, 216770261875765. doi:10.1177/2167702618757658

Sanne T. L. Houben, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, Maastricht, Limburg, 6200 MD, Netherlands. E-mail: sanne.houben@maastrichtuniversity.nl


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a popular treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. However, little is known about the memory effects of EMDR. Using a misinformation paradigm, we examined whether lateral eye movements, as used in EMDR, enhance susceptibility to false memories. Undergraduates (N = 82) saw a video depicting a car crash. Subsequently, participants either performed eye movements or held their eyes stationary. Afterward, all participants received misinformation in the form of an eyewitness narrative. The results indicate that eye movement participants were less accurate and were more susceptible to the misinformation effect than controls. Our finding suggests EMDR may have risky drawbacks in an eyewitness context and therefore urgently needs follow-up research.


Kratzer, L., Heinz, P., Schennach, R., Schiepek, G. K., Padberg, F., & Jobst, A. (2018). [Inpatient Treatment of Complex PTSD Following Childhood Abuse: Effectiveness and Predictors of Treatment Outcome]. Station
re Therapie der komplexen PTBS in Folge krperlicher oder sexualisierter Gewalt in der Kindheit: Wirksamkeit und Prdiktoren des Behandlungsverlaufs. Psychother Psychosom Med Psychol.

Leonhard Kratzer. Klinik St. Irmingard, Abteilung f
r Psychotraumatologie Osternacher Straße 103, 83209 Prien am Chiemsee. E-mail: l.kratzer@st-irmingard.de


BACKGROUND: There is a lack of studies investigating the effectiveness of inpatient trauma-focused psychotherapy of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. The first aim of this retrospective investigation was to analyze the course of PTSD. Second, possible predictors of treatment response were investigated.

METHODS: 150 inpatients of Clinic St. Irmingard with complex PTSD following childhood physical and childhood sexual abuse were assessed regarding childhood abuse, PTSD symptomatology, mindfulness, dissociation and general psychopathology. Differences in pre and post scores were analyzed using regression analyses. A classification tree was used to identify predictors of response.

RESULTS: The significant reduction of PTSD symptoms corresponded to a large effect (d=1.8) and a reponse rate of 52% according to the reliable change index (p<0.05). Effect sizes for other symptoms were medium to large (0.5
CONCLUSIONS: Trauma-focused inpatient treatment is safe and effective for patients with complex PTSD under naturalistic conditions. Yet, despite significant improvements there is a high rate of nonresponse. Future studies should further investigate the negative predictors of treatment outcome we identified. Possible ways to reduce nonresponse are discussed.


Passoni, S., Curinga, T., Toraldo, A., Berlingeri, M., Fernandez, I., & Bottini, G. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Integrative Group Treatment Protocol (EMDR-IGTP) Applied to Caregivers of Patients With Dementia. Front Psychol, 9, 967.

Open access:

Serena Passoni, Cognitive Neuropsychology Center, ASST Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milan, Italy. Email: serena.passoni@gmail.com


Caregivers of patients with dementia experience high levels of stress and burden, with effects comparable to those of a traumatic event. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) appear to be effective in recovering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We aimed at investigating the effectiveness of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Integrative Group Treatment Protocol (EMDR-IGTP) on the "caregiver syndrome". Forty-four primary caregivers entered the study. They were randomly assigned to either the "immediate" branch, who received the treatment soon after recruitment, or to the "delayed" branch, who received it two months after recruitment. The treatment consisted of eight group sessions (one per week) spanning over two months. Emotional distress was measured before the treatment, immediately after the end of it, and two months later (follow-up), by means of several clinical scales (Impact of Event Scale-Revised, IES-R; Caregiver Needs Assessment, CNA; Caregiver Burden Inventory, CBI; Anxiety and Depression Scale-Reduced Form, AD-R). The "immediate" branch improved significantly more than the "delayed" (control) branch on The Impact of Event Scale-Revised, the Anxiety, and the Depression scales; however, after treatment such an improvement was maintained only in the first scale. The "delayed" branch took less advantage of the treatment, showing significant reduction only on the Depression scale, an effect which disappeared at follow-up. These preliminary results show for the first time that EMDR-IGTP reduces stress-related symptoms, anxiety, and depression in caregivers of patients with dementia. Interestingly, caregivers who were inserted in a waiting list after recruitment showed smaller treatment effects. Larger samples are needed to better interpret such differential clinical profiles.


Purgato, M., Gastaldon, C., Papola, D., van Ommeren, M., Barbui, C., & Tol, W. A. (2018). Psychological therapies for the treatment of mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries affected by humanitarian crises. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 7, CD011849.

Marianna Purgato, Department of Neurosciences, Biomedicine and Movement Sciences, Section of Psychiatry, University of Verona, Piazzale LA Scuro 10, Verona, 37134, Italy. E-mail: marianna.purgato@univr.it.


BACKGROUND: People living in humanitarian settings in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are exposed to a constellation of stressors that make them vulnerable to developing mental disorders. Mental disorders with a higher prevalence in these settings include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive, anxiety, somatoform (e.g. medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS)), and related disorders. A range of psychological therapies are used to manage symptoms of mental disorders in this population.

OBJECTIVES: To compare the effectiveness and acceptability of psychological therapies versus control conditions (wait list, treatment as usual, attention placebo, psychological placebo, or no treatment) aimed at treating people with mental disorders (PTSD and major depressive, anxiety, somatoform, and related disorders) living in LMICs affected by humanitarian crises.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Controlled Trials Register (CCMDCTR), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Wiley), MEDLINE (OVID), Embase (OVID), and PsycINFO (OVID), with results incorporated from searches to 3 February 2016. We also searched the World Health Organization (WHO) trials portal (ICTRP) and ClinicalTrials.gov to identify any unpublished or ongoing studies. We checked the reference lists of relevant studies and reviews.

SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing psychological therapies versus control conditions (including no treatment, usual care, wait list, attention placebo, and psychological placebo) to treat adults and children with mental disorders living in LMICs affected by humanitarian crises. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used standard Cochrane procedures for collecting data and evaluating risk of bias. We calculated standardised mean differences for continuous outcomes and risk ratios for dichotomous data, using a random-effects model. We analysed data at endpoint (zero to four weeks after therapy); at medium term (one to four months after therapy); and at long term (six months or longer). GRADE (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) was used to assess the quality of evidence for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and withdrawal outcomes.

MAIN RESULTS: We included 36 studies (33 RCTs) with a total of 3523 participants. Included studies were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia. Studies were implemented in response to armed conflicts; disasters triggered by natural hazards; and other types of humanitarian crises. Together, the 33 RCTs compared eight psychological treatments against a control comparator. Four studies included children and adolescents between 5 and 18 years of age. Three studies included mixed populations (two studies included participants between 12 and 25 years of age, and one study included participants between 16 and 65 years of age). Remaining studies included adult populations (18 years of age or older).Included trials compared a psychological therapy versus a control intervention (wait list in most studies; no treatment; treatment as usual). Psychological therapies were categorised mainly as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) in 23 comparisons (including seven comparisons focused on narrative exposure therapy (NET), two focused on common elements treatment approach (CETA), and one focused on brief behavioural activation treatment (BA)); eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) in two comparisons; interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) in three comparisons; thought field therapy (TFT) in three comparisons; and trauma or general supportive counselling in two comparisons. Although interventions were described under these categories, several psychotherapeutic elements were common to a range of therapies (i.e. psychoeducation, coping skills).In adults, psychological therapies may substantially reduce endpoint PTSD symptoms compared to control conditions (standardised mean difference (SMD) -1.07, 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.34 to -0.79; 1272 participants; 16 studies; low-quality evidence). The effect is smaller at one to four months (SMD -0.49, 95% CI -0.68 to -0.31; 1660 participants; 18 studies) and at six months (SMD -0.37, 95% CI -0.61 to -0.14; 400 participants; five studies). Psychological therapies may also substantially reduce endpoint depression symptoms compared to control conditions (SMD -0.86, 95% CI -1.06 to -0.67; 1254 participants; 14 studies; low-quality evidence). Similar to PTSD symptoms, follow-up data at one to four months showed a smaller effect on depression (SMD -0.42, 95% CI -0.63 to -0.21; 1386 participants; 16 studies). Psychological therapies may moderately reduce anxiety at endpoint (SMD -0.74, 95% CI -0.98 to -0.49; 694 participants; five studies; low-quality evidence) and at one to four months' follow-up after treatment (SMD -0.53, 95% CI -0.66 to -0.39; 969 participants; seven studies). Dropout rates are probably similar between study conditions (19.5% with control versus 19.1% with psychological therapy (RR 0.98 95% CI 0.82 to 1.16; 2930 participants; 23 studies, moderate quality evidence)).In children and adolescents, we found very low quality evidence for lower endpoint PTSD symptoms scores in psychotherapy conditions (CBT) compared to control conditions, although the confidence interval is wide (SMD -1.56, 95% CI -3.13 to 0.01; 130 participants; three studies;). No RCTs provided data on major depression or anxiety in children. The effect on withdrawal was uncertain (RR 1.87 95% CI 0.47 to 7.47; 138 participants; 3 studies, low quality evidence).We did not identify any studies that evaluated psychological treatments on (symptoms of) somatoform disorders or MUPS in LMIC humanitarian settings.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is low quality evidence that psychological therapies have large or moderate effects in reducing PTSD, depressive, and anxiety symptoms in adults living in humanitarian settings in LMICs. By one to four month and six month follow-up assessments treatment effects were smaller. Fewer trials were focused on children and adolescents and they provide very low quality evidence of a beneficial effect of psychological therapies in reducing PTSD symptoms at endpoint. Confidence in these findings is influenced by the risk of bias in the studies and by substantial levels of heterogeneity. More research evidence is needed, particularly for children and adolescents over longer periods of follow-up.


Trentini, C., Lauriola, M., Giuliani, A., Maslovaric, G., Tambelli, R., Fernandez, I. et al. (2018). Dealing With the Aftermath of Mass Disasters: A Field Study on the Application of EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol With Child Survivors of the 2016 Italy Earthquakes. Front Psychol, 9, 862.
Open Access: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00862/full

Cristina Trentini. E-mail: cristina.trentini@uniroma1.it


This study explored the effects of the EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol (EMDR-IGTP) on child survivors of the earthquakes that struck Umbria, a region of central Italy, on August 24th and on October 26th 2016. Three hundred and thirty-two children from the town of Norcia and nearby severely disrupted villages received 3 cycles of EMDR-IGTP. The Emotion Thermometers (ET-5) and the Children’s Revised Impact of Event Scale (CRIES-13) were administered before (T0) and about 1 week after the conclusion of the third cycle (T3) of EMDR-IGTP. At T3, older children showed a reduction of distress and anger, whereas younger children reported an increase on these domains; moreover, older children reported a greater reduction of anxiety than younger ones. A greater reduction of distress, anxiety, and need for help was evidenced in females, whereas a greater improvement in depressive symptoms was evidenced in males. The effects of the EMDR-IGTP treatment on post-traumatic symptoms were particularly evident in older children, compared to younger ones, and marginally greater in females than in males; moreover, a greater improvement was found in children who had received a timelier intervention, than in those who received delayed treatment. These results provide further evidence for the utility of EMDR-IGTP in dealing with the extensive need for mental health services in mass disaster contexts. Also, these data highlight the importance of providing EMDR-IGTP in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, to contribute significantly in restoring adaptive psychological functioning in children, especially in older ones.


Wilson, G., Farrell, D., Barron, I., Hutchins, J., Whybrow, D., & Kiernan, M. D. (2018). The Use of Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder-A Systematic Narrative Review. Front Psychol, 9, 923.

Open Access:

Gemma Wilson. E-mail: Gemma.wilson@northumbria.ac.uk


Aim: There is an extensive body of research examining the efficacy of Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This systematic narrative review aimed to systematically, and narratively, review robust evidence from Randomized-Controlled Trials examining the efficacy of EMDR therapy.

Method: Eight databases were searched to identify studies relevant to the study aim. Two separate systematic searches of published, peer-reviewed evidence were carried out, considering relevant studies published prior to April 2017. After exclusion of all irrelevant, or non-robust, studies, a total of two meta-analyses and four Randomized-Controlled Trials were included for review.

Results: Data from meta-analyses and Randomized-Controlled Trials included in this review evidence the efficacy of EMDR therapy as a treatment for PTSD. Specifically, EMDR therapy improved PTSD diagnosis, reduced PTSD symptoms, and reduced other trauma-related symptoms. EMDR therapy was evidenced as being more effective than other trauma treatments, and was shown to be an effective therapy when delivered with different cultures. However, limitations to the current evidence exist, and much current evidence relies on small sample sizes and provides limited follow-up data.

Conclusions: This systematic narrative review contributes to the current evidence base, and provides recommendations for practice and future research. This review highlights the need for additional research to further examine the use of EMDR therapy for PTSD in a range of clinical populations and cultural contexts.


Yurtsever, A., Konuk, E., Akyüz, T., Zat, Z., Tükel, F., Çetinkaya, M. et al. (2018). An Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Group Intervention for Syrian Refugees With Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Front Psychol, 9, 493.

Open Access:

Asena Yurtsever, DBE Institute for Behavioral Studies, Istanbul, Turkey. E-mail: asenayurt@hotmail.com

The number of refugees has increased significantly over the past few years. PTSD and depression are among the most common mental health problems among refugees. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), an effective treatment for PTSD, is usually administered individually. The availability of mental health resources would be greatly enhanced when EMDR can be delivered to groups. The EMDR G-TEP is a group protocol based on Early EMDR intervention protocols. There is clinical evidence and one field study published on the effect of EMDR G-TEP and there is only one RCT published on the treatment of PTSD and depression in a refugee camp. The aim of our study was to investigate the efficacy of EMDR G-TEP in treating post-trauma symptoms and depression and preventing the development of chronic PTSD among refugees living in a refugee camp. 47 adult participants with PTSD symptoms were randomly allocated to experimental (n = 18) and control (n = 29) groups. We measured Impact of Event Scale (IES-R), Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) at pre-, post- and 4-week follow-up. Analysis of the results showed that the EMDR G-TEP group had significantly lower PTSD and depression symptoms after intervention. The percentage of PTSD diagnosis decreased from 100 to 38.9% in the EMDR G-TEP group and was unchanged in the control group. Following the EMDR G-TEP intervention 61.1% of the experimental group no longer had a PTSD diagnosis; this decrease was maintained at 4 weeks follow-up. In the control group the percentage of people who no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD was 10.3% post-test and 6.9% at 4 weeks follow-up. A significant decrease in depression symptoms from pre-test levels was found in EMDR group but not in the control group follow up-test. This study indicated that EMDR G-TEP effectively reduced PTSD symptoms among refugees living in a camp, after two treatment sessions conducted over a period of 3 days. Further studies need to be performed using a larger number of participants, followed for a longer period of time and given more treatment sessions to strengthen our findings.