How Therapeutic Tapping Can Alter Neural Correlates of Emotional Prosody Processing in Anxiety

Brain Sci. 2019 Aug 19;9(8):206. doi: 10.3390/brainsci9080206.


Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological disorders worldwide resulting in a great demand of adequate and cost-effective treatment. New short-term interventions can be used as an effective adjunct or alternative to pharmaco- and psychotherapy. One of these approaches is therapeutic tapping. It combines somatic stimulation of acupressure points with elements from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Tapping reduces anxiety symptoms after only one session. Anxiety is associated with a deficient emotion regulation for threatening stimuli. These deficits are compensated e.g., by CBT. Whether Tapping can also elicit similar modulations and which dynamic neural correlates are affected was subject to this study. Anxiety patients were assessed listening to pseudowords with a different emotional prosody (happy, angry, fearful, and neutral) prior and after one Tapping session. The emotion-related component Late Positive Potential (LPP) was investigated via electroencephalography. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) served as control intervention. Results showed LPP reductions for negative stimuli after the interventions. Interestingly, PMR influenced fearful and Tapping altered angry prosody. While PMR generally reduced arousal for fearful prosody, Tapping specifically affected fear-eliciting, angry stimuli, and might thus be able to reduce anxiety symptoms. Findings highlight the efficacy of Tapping and its impact on neural correlates of emotion regulation.

Keywords: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT); Tapping; anxiety; electroencephalography (EEG); emotional prosody; event-related brain potentials (ERPs); progressive muscle relaxation (PMR); therapy research.