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

J Anxiety Disord. 2011 Jan;25(1):1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.06.024. Epub 2010 Aug 14.


This study aimed to investigate the psychophysiological correlates and the effectiveness of different dual-attention tasks used during eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Sixty-two non-clinical participants with negative autobiographical memories received a single session of EMDR without eye movements, or EMDR that included eye movements of either varied or fixed rate of speed. Subjective units of distress and vividness of the memory were recorded at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 1 week follow-up. EMDR-with eye movements led to greater reduction in distress 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 than no-eye movement condition at the start of exposure. Findings indicate that the eye movement component in EMDR is beneficial, and is coupled with distinct psychophysiological changes that may aid in processing negative memories.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing*
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome