Psychophysiological changes during EMDR and treatment outcome


This study was designed to investigate the question of whether psychophysiological changes during EMDR sessions are related to subjective and objective reduction of PTSD symptoms. During-session changes in autonomic tone in relation to session-to-session changes of subjective stress, trauma-related symptoms, and psychophysiological reactions during a traumatic reminder were investigated in 10 patients suffering from single-trauma PTSD. Treatment duration followed each patient’s individual needs and ranged between 1 and 4 sessions, resulting in a total of 24 EMDR treatment sessions from which psychophysiological data were completely recorded. Treatment with EMDR was followed by a significant reduction of trauma-related symptoms, elimination of the PTSD diagnosis in 8 of the 10 participants, as well as by significantly reduced psychophysiological reactivity to an individualized trauma script. Psychophysiological dearousal in sessions correlated significantly with decrease in script-related reactions in heart rate and parasympathetic tone, and with changes in subjective disturbance. Our results indicate that information processing during EMDR is followed by during-session decrease in psychophysiological activity, reduced subjective disturbance and reduced stress reactivity to traumatic memory.






Martin Sack
Arne Hofmann
Leah Wizelman
Wolfgang Lempa

Original Work Citation

Sack, M., Hofmann, A., Wizelman, L., & Lempa, W. (2008). Psychophysiological changes during EMDR and treatment outcome. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2(4), 239-246. doi:10.1891/1933-3196.2.4.239



“Psychophysiological changes during EMDR and treatment outcome,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 21, 2020,

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