Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Clinical Section

Effects of “Eye Movement Desensitization” on Emotional Processing in Normal Subjects

Harald Merckelbacha1, Eef Hogervorsta1, Mirjam Kampmana1 and Ad de Jongha2

a1 University of Limburg, The Netherlands

a2 Academic Centre for Dentistry, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


A number of single case reports have made impressive claims for the efficacy of “eye movement desensitization” (EMD) in the treatment of traumatic memories. Many of these case reports claim that EMD reduces the unpleasant feelings associated with traumatic images. However, at present, there are no published controlled studies that provide evidence for these claims. The present experiment investigated whether EMD inhibits emotional responding during retrieval of aversive information. Normal Ss (N=40) were exposed to an aversive slide. During a next stage, half of the Ss underwent EMD while they rehearsed the slide information, whereas the other half underwent a control procedure (i.e., finger tapping) while rehearsing slide information. Before and after EMD or control intervention, heart rate and self-report data were obtained while Ss retrieved and visualized the aversive slide. No evidence was found to suggest that EMD inhibits emotional reactivity more than does finger tapping.


Reprint requests to Harald Merckelbach, Department of Experimental Abnormal Psychology, University of Limburg, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.