EMDR and the relevance of neurophenomenology


This presentation introduces the work of the late Francisco Varela, a neurobiologist famous for his landmark theory, with Humberto Maturana, of Autopoiesis: The Organization of the Living (1972). More recently Varela is known as co-author of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (1991) which uses principles of phenomenology and contemplative practice to establish rigorous criteria for the study of conscious experience. Soon after, he coined the term Neurophenomenology:
“To the long-standing tradition of objectivist science this sounds like anathema, and it is. But this is not a betrayal of science: it is a necessary extension and complement. Science and experience constrain and modify each other as a dance. This is where the potential for transformation lies. It is also the key for the difficulties this position has found within the scientific community. It requires us to leave behind the certain image of how science is done, and to question a style of training in science which is part of the very fabric of our cultural identity.”(1996)
Varela and his two research teams at LENA ( laboratory of Cognitive Neurosciences and Brain Imaging) and CREA, Ecole Polytechnique, are known for their studies of human perception of meaningful complex forms which they proved are accompanied by phase-locked, synchronous oscillations in distinct brain regions (1998). His students and colleagues continue this research which I find particularly relevant to EMDR. A recent example is a study on the “binocular rivalry which occurs when each eye sees a different, non-fusible image. Conscious visual perception oscillates between images spontaneously in a non-predictable manner…This multistable phenomenon therefore offers an interesting opportunity to study the spontaneous ‘coming into consciousnesses of a given percept, both from a first person perspective and from a neurobiological point of view.”(Cosmelli, 2002)
I believe this to be a relevant opportunity for collaborative EMDR research design.






R. Hahn

Original Work Citation

Hahn, R. (2004, June). EMDR and the relevance of neurophenomenology. Presentation at the 5th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Stockholm, Sweden



“EMDR and the relevance of neurophenomenology,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 19, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/22758.

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