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Physiological correlates of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute.
2008 (English)In: J Anxiety Disord, ISSN 0887-6185, Vol. 22, no 4, 622-34 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

Physiological correlates of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

Elofsson UO, von Schèele B, Theorell T, Söndergaard HP.

National Institute for Psychosocial Factors and Health (IPM) & Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an established treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, its working mechanism remains unclear. This study explored physiological correlates of eye movements during EMDR in relation to current hypotheses; distraction, conditioning, orienting response activation, and REM-like mechanisms. During EMDR therapy, fingertip temperature, heart rate, skin conductance, expiratory carbon dioxide level, and blood pulse oximeter oxygen saturation, were measured in male subjects with PTSD. The ratio between the low and high frequency components of the heart rate power spectrum (LF/HF) were computed as measures of autonomic balance. Respiratory rate was calculated from the carbon dioxide trace. Stimulation shifted the autonomic balance as indicated by decreases in heart rate, skin conductance and LF/HF-ratio, and an increased finger temperature. The breathing frequency and end-tidal carbon dioxide increased; oxygen saturation decreased during eye movements. In conclusion, eye movements during EMDR activate cholinergic and inhibit sympathetic systems. The reactivity has similarities with the pattern during REM-sleep.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 22, no 4, 622-34 p.
Keyword [en]
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Orienting response, Automatic physiology, Heart rate variability, Respiration
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-14159PubMedID: 17604948OAI: diva2:180679
Internt P2653Available from: 2008-06-17 Created: 2008-06-17 Last updated: 2011-01-10Bibliographically approved

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