Eye movement intervention reduces amygdala activity during recall of traumatic memory


Improving extinction learning is essential to optimize psychotherapy for persistent fear-related disorders. In two independent studies (both n=24), we found that goal-directed eye movements activate a dorsal fronto-parietal network and transiently deactivate the amygdala ([graphic1]=.17). Connectivity analyses revealed that this down-regulation potentially engages a ventromedial prefrontal pathway known to be involved in cognitive regulation of emotion. Critically, when eye movements followed memory reactivation during extinction learning, it reduced spontaneous fear recovery 24 hours later ([graphic2]=.21). Stronger amygdala deactivation furthermore predicted a stronger reduction in subsequent fear recovery after reinstatement (r=.39). In conclusion, we show that extinction learning can be improved with a non-invasive eye-movement intervention that triggers a transient suppression of the amygdala. Our finding that another task which taxes working memory leads to a similar amygdala suppression furthermore indicates that this effect is likely not specific to eye movements, which is in line with a large body of behavioral studies. This study contributes to the understanding of a widely used treatment for traumatic symptoms by providing a parsimonious account for how working memory tasks and goal-directed eye movements can enhance extinction-based psychotherapy, namely through neural circuits (e.g., amygdala deactivation) similar to those that support cognitive control of emotion.






Lycia D. de Voogd
Jonathan W. Kanen
David A. Neville
Karin Roelofs
Guillén Fernández
Erno J. Hermans

Original Work Citation

de Voogd, L. D., Kanen, J. W., Neville, D. A., Roelofs, K., Fernández, G., & Hermans, E. J. (2018, September). Eye movement intervention reduces amygdala activity during recall of traumatic memory. Journal of Neuroscience. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0703-18.2018



“Eye movement intervention reduces amygdala activity during recall of traumatic memory,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 25, 2018, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/25514.

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