Psychophysiological changes during EMDR - Are they related to treatment outcome?


Objective: Dual attention stimulation seems to provoke orienting response like patterns of psychophysiological deactivation during “real-life” EMDR treatment sessions (Sack et al, in review). Objective of this study was to investigate the association of psych-physiological effects during dual attention stimulation with treatment outcome as measured by questionnaire and by psychophysiological reactions during presentations of an individualized trauma script.

Methods: A total of 24 EMDR treatment sessions from 10 patients with PTSD were monitored applying impedance Cardiography. The onset of every stimulation/exposure period was marked and effects within and across stimulation sets on heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (RMSSD), pre-ejection period (PEP) and respiration rate were examined. Heart rate reactivity during presentation of an audiotaped trauma script was measured at beginning of every session and additionally one week before the first session and one week after the last treatment session. Statistical correlations between both subjective (Impact of Event Scale, SUD) and objective (heart rate reactivity) measures of treatment outcome with psychophysiological changes during session (orienting response at beginning of stimulation, slope of HR) were computed.

Results: A significant reduction of trauma-related symptoms was noticed over the course of EMDR treatment: (IES one week pre: 61.2(SD 10.9), IES pre: 55.4(SD 19.0), IES post: 13.3(SD 12.2), F(2,27); 32.6, p Conclusions: The results of this study will allow further insights into the working mechanism of EMDR.

This study was co-sponsored by EMDREA and EMDRIA-Germany.






Martin Sack
Arne Hofmann
Leah Wizelman
Wolfgang Lempa

Original Work Citation

Sack, M., Hofmann, A, Wizelman, L., & Lempa, W. (2007, June). Psychophysiological changes during EMDR - Are they related to treatment outcome? Presentation at the 8th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Paris, France



“Psychophysiological changes during EMDR - Are they related to treatment outcome?,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 21, 2020,

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