The predictive processing model of EMDR


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is an effective treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Adaptive Information Processing Model (AIP) guides the development and practice of EMDR. The AIP postulates inadequately processed memory as the foundation of PTSD pathology. Predictive Processing postulates that the primary function of the brain is prediction that serves to anticipate the next moment of experience in order to resist the dissipative force of entropy thus facilitating continued survival. Memory is the primary substrate of prediction, and is optimized by an ongoing process of precision weighted prediction error minimization that refines prediction by updating the memories on which it is based. The Predictive Processing model of EMDR postulates that EMDR facilitates the predictive processing of traumatic memory by overcoming the bias against exploration and evidence accumulation. The EMDR protocol brings the traumatic memory into an active state of re-experiencing. Defensive responding and/or low sensory precision preclude evidence accumulation to test the predictions of the traumatic memory in the present. Sets of therapist guided eye movements repeatedly challenge the bias against evidence accumulation and compel sensory sampling of the benign present. Eye movements reset the theta rhythm organizing the flow of information through the brain, facilitating the deployment of both overt and covert attention, and the mnemonic search for associations. Sampling of sensation does not support the predictions of the traumatic memory resulting in prediction error that the brain then attempts to minimize. The net result is a restoration of the integrity of the rhythmic deployment of attention, a recalibration of sensory precision, and the updating (reconsolidation) of the traumatic memory. Thus one prediction of the model is a decrease in Attention Bias Variability, a core dysfunction in PTSD, following successful treatment with EMDR.






D. Eric Chamberlin

Original Work Citation

Chamberlin, D. E. (2019, October). The predictive processing model of EMDR. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2667. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02267



“The predictive processing model of EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed May 28, 2020,

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