Adaptive Information Processing Theory: Origins, Principles, Applications, and Evidence

J Evid Based Soc Work (2019). 2020 May-Jun;17(3):317-331. doi: 10.1080/26408066.2020.1748155. Epub 2020 Apr 24.


This paper describes the origins, principles, applications, and evidence related to Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) theory. AIP theory provides the theoretical underpinning of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. AIP theory was developed to explain the observed results of EMDR therapy delivered to individuals experiencing trauma and PTSD. The AIP model hypothesizes that maladaptively stored memories of trauma create obstacles to rational processing of information, which occurs in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. Bilateral stimulation, through eye movements or other mechanisms, is hypothesized to remove the obstacles and permit complete processing of the memory, leading to a reduction in trauma symptoms. EMDR therapy, with the AIP model as rationale, has been effectively used in the treatment of PTSD. Evidence in support of AIP theory is emerging as some promising results have been shown in studies that rely on measuring various types of physiological changes that occur during EMDR therapy.

Keywords: Adaptive information processing theory; EMDR; PTSD; trauma treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods*
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome