Using magneto encephalography to determine the therapeutic efficacy of EMDR in the treatment of PTSD


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can be produced by traumatic experiences. A new study has shown that a brain scan called magneto encephalography (MEG) can identify people who have PTSD with an accuracy of 95%. Sensors measure tiny magnetic fields generated by currents flowing in and around neurons. In addition they have recently stated in the Journal of Neural Engineering that they can now watch the brain as it experiences PTSD. Imaging shows that the brain becomes hyperactive in the right temporal lobe, the location responsible for memory. Besides diagnosing PTSD, the researchers also are able to judge the severity of how much patients are suffering. Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) was designed in 1987 as a treatment for PTSD. EMDR is a structured eight-phase therapy that allows for adequate reprocessing of dysfunctionally stored memory. In the processing phases the client attends to the disturbing memory in brief intervals of 15-30 seconds while also experiencing bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tones or tapping). The eight phases integrate effective elements of psychodynamic, imaginal exposure, cognitive therapy, interpersonal, experiential, physiological and somatic therapies. Now that we can locate specific biomarkers for PTSD using MEG, my hypothesis is that we will find a statistically significant difference between the control group and the group that has EMDR treatment, and that EMDR will be shown to be effective in resolving PTSD as measured by pre and post therapy MEG scans. Also using the MEG, we may be able to observe those brain actions responsible for the therapeutic efficacy of EMDR and isolate which components of EMDR trigger those brain actions. The significance of finding the answer to these questions could potentially help millions of people overcome years of suffering from psychological pain due to the after effects of severe trauma and restore them to productive lives. It could establish the status of EMDR, assisting in the decision of whether it should be listed among the evidence-based, best-practice therapy modalities and covered by insurance. Also knowing the underlying pathophysiology could contribute to the evolution, revision and refinement of diagnostic constructs for PTSD.






Jayne Kreitzberg

Original Work Citation

Kreitzberg, J. (2011). Using magneto encephalography to determine the therapeutic efficacy of EMDR in the treatment of PTSD. Symposium presented at the 19th Annual Linfield College Science Symposium



“Using magneto encephalography to determine the therapeutic efficacy of EMDR in the treatment of PTSD,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 23, 2020,

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