The neurobiology of EMDR: Thalamic, cerebellar and pontine/REM processes


Clinical case reports and a growing body of controlled research suggest that EMDR is equally and perhaps more efficacious when cross-compared with other methods in treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. However, as EMDR was originally an empirically driven method, there has persisted a need for a more defined theoretical model, further scientific validation, and a neurobiological understanding of EMDR's reported robust effects. The possibility that EMDR can effectuate change on a neurobiological level has fueled speculation as to the neural-mechanisms that might underlie EMDR's effects. Brain scans and QEEG's are beginning to shed light on the alterations of brain function that EMDR appears to yield. This presentation will synthesize the existing research with theoretical speculation correlated with Francine Shapiro's model of the Adaptive Information Processing System. Specific attention will be given to recent empirical findings involving the thalamus in information processing and memory integration. This material will be integrated with previously posited theories regarding the cerebellum's involvement in many aspects of information processing and activation processes of the left prefrontal areas and EMDR's activation of the neurophysiology of REM-sleep systems. A neurobiological definition of EMDR serve to further legitimize its usage. It can also potentially enlighten our practice by informing preparation, resourcing and target selection strategies.






Uri Bergmann

Original Work Citation

Bergmann, U. (2006, September). The neurobiology of EMDR:Thalamic, cerebellar and pontine/REM processes. Presentation at the 11th EMDR International Association Conference, Philadelphia, PA



“The neurobiology of EMDR: Thalamic, cerebellar and pontine/REM processes,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 27, 2020,

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