2023 Research Award Recipients

 $25,000 research grant was awarded in October 2023 to the following recipient:

Martina Manzoni

Project Title: Reducing post-traumatic stress in parents of pediatric patients with Muscular Degenerative Disorders using EMDR: a randomized controlled study with a focus on psychological and hemodynamic -physiological changes 


Assessment of EMDR as a PTSD treatment for parents of children diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Investigate whether improvement due to EMDR is associated with changes in hemodynamic and physiological brain activity. A randomized controlled study comparing 8 sessions of EMDR with Prolonged Exposure. 20 subjects with PTSD or PTSS will identify the worst memory related to their child’s illness while noninvasive hemodynamic and physiological responses are recorded and will be randomly assigned to either 8 weekly 60-minute sessions of EMDR or PE. 


$5,000 Dissertation Award Recipient

Rebecca Suganthi Davidar

Project Title: Online EMDR for couples experiencing attachment trauma: a feasibility trial.


Examine process and feasibility of EMDR for attachment trauma and develop a protocol with high fidelity for online EMDR in couples counseling.

2022 Research Award Recipients

 $25,000 research grants were awarded in October 2022 to the following recipients:

Suzy Matthijssen PhD

Project Title: A randomized controlled trial comparing the effectiveness, efficiency and treatment acceptability of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, EMDR 2.0 and the Flash technique in patients with post- traumatic stress disorder.


A randomized controlled comparison of EMDR, an adapted version of the protocol called EMDR 2.0 and the Flash Technique on their effect on PTSD symptoms as well as their efficiency and acceptability. Comorbid depression, dissociation and avoidance will also be examined. This study expands on the working memory model of EMDR while shedding light on critical components contributing to effective PTSD treatment.


Christoph Mueller-Pfeiffer MD

Project Title: EMDR in Treatment in PTSD Following Acute Coronary Syndromes


Individuals with acute coronary syndrome-induced PTSD will be randomized to 8 sessions of EMDR or no treatment. Outcome will be assessed with a wide variety of scales of PTSD, depression, anxiety, mood, insomnia, illness perception, heart rate and skin conductance reaction to loud tone as well as a variety of biochemical measures.  If EMDR is shown to be effective it could lead to it being offered as a first-line treatment for ACS-induced PTSD.


Anwar Khan PhD

Project Title: Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Post-Traumatic Stress and Comorbid Disorders in Pakistan: A Full-fledged Randomized Controlled Trial.


Large-scale randomized controlled trial comparing EMDR and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The interaction between decrease in PTSD symptoms and comorbid anxiety and depression will also be evaluated. Qualitative data will be obtained by client interviews as well as measures of credibility, effectiveness and perceptions about the therapist. This study can expand on previous comparisons of EMDR versus CBT in PTSD treatment in a cross-cultural context.


Karin Slotema, Prof. dr.

Project Title: Trauma-focused EMDR for Personality disorders in Outpatients (TEMPO-study)


A randomized controlled trial for patients with Borderline and Cluster C Personality Disorders to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of EMDR therapy compared to waiting list/treatment as usual. This study may contribute to the recognition of EMDR as an effective treatment for personality disorders.

2021 Research Award Recipients

Two $25,000 research grants were awarded in 2021 to the following:

Joyce Baptist PhD

Project Title: A randomized controlled trial comparing EMDR, CBT and IPT for the treatment of recurrent depression.


A multisite randomized controlled clinical comparison of EMDR, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy in the treatment of recurrent depression. In addition, heart rate variability and its relationship with mood will be examined to predict differential response to the three treatments. This study can expand upon the knowledge base regarding EMDR and other treatment for depression.


 One $5,000 dissertation grant was awarded to the following:

 Canan Çitil-Akyol 

Project Title: Effectiveness of an EMDR-Oriented Intervention Program on the Traumatic Experiences of Primary School Students


Primary school children with history of trauma will be treated with EMDR and outcome measured with the Children’s Revised Impact of Event Scale. Researcher and parent diaries documenting the history and effectiveness of treatment will be the subject of content analysis.

2020 Research Award Recipients

One $25,000 research grant was awarded in October 2020 to the following:

Luca Ostacoli M.D.

Project Title: Neurobiological effects of EMDR as compared to CBT for the treatment of Depression: emotional processing and autonomic response evaluation. Strengthening the evidence for EMDR therapy in depression.


Depression is one of the most common invalidating mental disorders, ranked by World Health Organization as the single largest contributor to global disability. Its occurrence and development, besides stress and other neurobiological/genetic correlates, has been significantly associated with exposure to traumatic experiences (e.g., physical and sexual abuse, emotional neglect). Currently recommended treatments for depression include antidepressant medication and psychotherapies including, according to guidelines, only the Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy.  In spite of encouraging preliminary results EMDR is not yet recognized as an effective therapy for Depression. As a whole, while antidepressant medications have been associated with a modest advantage over placebos, psychotherapeutic treatments do not work for all patients. Typical response rate, in fact, may be less than 50%, especially for chronic depression. In summary, given the high inter-patient variability, a clinical decision support system allowing for an objective diagnosis of neurobiological markers of depression and, consequently, a personalised treatment is very missing.

One $1,000 research consultation grant was awarded in October 2020 to the following:

Colette Smart PhD, RPsych

Project Title: Using EMDR as Secondary Prevention in Concussed Individuals: A Pilot and Feasibility Study.


To consult on the implementation of the R-TEP, which will be the form of EMDR used in this study. Specifically, the consultant will work closely with the PI to establish treatment fidelity, to ensure that the R-TEP is administered to the highest quality possible, thereby maximizing the likelihood that significant results will be found.

Winner of the Francine Shapiro Memorial Fund Grant Award

One $46,700 research grant was awarded in May 2020 to the following:

Batya Engel-Yeger PhD, Eyal Fruchter PhD, and Udi Oren PhD

Project Title: Military PTSD symptoms and daily function before and after an EMDR intervention


The symptoms and possible chronic nature of PTSD have far-reaching negative impact on the individual’s daily life. However, PTSD interventions focus on symptoms relief and less on their functional implications. One of the promising interventions for PTSD is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Most studies on EMDR evaluate its effects on PTSD symptomatology. This study aims to broaden the knowledge about the efficiency of EMDR in treating people with PTSD in terms of symptoms, performance and participation in daily activities. For that, this study is based on a collaboration between researchers from psychiatry, clinical psychology and occupational therapy. In addition to the fundamental PTSD clinical symptoms, this study will focus on high cognitive abilities related to emotional and behavioral regulation named executive functions (EFs) and on their impacts on daily functioning. It is hypothesized that the PTSD group that will undergo EMDR will have better outcomes as compared to the PTSD non-EMDR group as measured by reduction in PTSD symptoms, improved EFs, and better daily function. These improvements will be seen after 3 months of treatment and at one-year follow up.

One $25,000 research grant was awarded in May 2020 to the following:

Anwar Khan, PhD

Project Title: Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Post-Traumatic Stress and Comorbid Disorders in Pakistan: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility-Pilot Study


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its associated comorbidities
develop after exposure to the traumatic events. In the recent years a global increase in the rate of PTSD and its comorbidities has been observed, especially in the developing countries like Pakistan, which is continually suffering from war on terrorism, domestic violence, coupled by poverty and cultural constraints. Due to increasing rates of PTSD and lack of treatment facilities in Pakistan, it is imperative to find a mechanism for controlling mental illnesses in Pakistan. This
situation also motivates research on testing and validating the efficacy of EMDR and CBT.

One $5,000 dissertation grant was awarded in May 2020 to the following:

Deborah Vinall, PSY-D, LMFT

Dissertation Title: Life after Death: Trauma Sequelae and Life Re-adjustment in Survivors of Mass Shootings Treated with EMDR Therapy


This qualitative phenomenological-descriptive study explores the multiple lived experiences of survivors of mass shootings through the lens of qualified EMDR therapists who have provided treatment subsequent to the trauma. The author investigates the unique traumatology and responsiveness to EMDR treatment of a diverse sampling of mass shooting survivors, to include both children and adults. Through structured interviews with open-ended questions and drawing on participants’ review of case notes, this study examines symptoms presented, themes identified for target processing, areas of impairment and of strength, and treatment outcomes. Comparison is made of symptom presentation differentials between survivors of mass shootings wherein the shooter and fellow victims are known and wherein the shooter and most victims are unknown. Participants are drawn from multiple states and represent both crisis and long-term response to mass shooting trauma using recent events, group, and standard protocols. This study adds valuable insights to the very limited number of existing studies on the ever-growing population of mass shooting survivors, to better prepare clinicians to provide best practices treatment with accurately attuned empathy and understanding.

2019 Research Award Recipients

One $25,000 research grant was awarded in October 2019 to the following:

Sara Bertelli PhD

Project Title: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) versus Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa: a randomized clinical trial.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a severe form of psychopathology which is difficult to treat (Steiner et al., 2003). Symptoms include refusal of maintaining a minimal body weight according to age and height (less than 85% of the expected), intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat (even when the subject is underweight), exaggerated weight concerns, desperate attempts to prevent weight gain through self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, or excessive dieting and exercise, and denial of the seriousness of current low body weight or wrong perception of body weight (dysmorphophobia; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994). The anorexic identity appears to be one of the most dangerous clinical conditions and has severe psychological implications (Fairburn and Brownell, 2002). It shows a high incidence of comorbid diagnoses and the highest mortality rate among all mental disorders (Attia, 2010). It is 10 times more frequent in females than in males (Woodside et al., 2001), and the highest incidence occurs in adolescent girls and young women (0.5–1%; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994). The aim of the study is to monitor the course and the outcomes of the specific EMDR protocol for Anorexia Nervosa, with regard to: i) quantitative outcomes, subject (data from self-report questionnaires); (ii) quantitative outcomes, objective (Body Mass Index and EEG coherence); (iii) qualitative outcomes (narrative data regarding attachment and history of the symptomatology). CBT will be used as active comparator treatment. Clinical implications and dissemination plan will be described and implemented at the end of the research project. 

One $25,000 research grant was awarded in May 2019 to the following:

S. Every-Palmer PhD

Project Title:  EMDR for PTSD in Forensic Mental Health Services.


Prisoners in need of forensic mental health care are often multiply disadvantaged, with serious mental illness, social disparity, substance misuse, experience of stigma, and past history of psychological trauma all more common than not. Rates of mental illness within prisons are rising. Studies show a high prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in custodial populations, but that trauma symptoms are often overlooked or treated inappropriately. Treatment can include medications like benzodiazepines with their associated adverse effects, including dependence. Moreover, untreated PTSD symptoms can lead to substance misuse, and can precipitate episodes of psychosis or mood disorder and impede rehabilitation. Incarceration itself is ineffective at addressing underlying drivers of antisocial behavior. Failing to address mental illness and trauma leads to ongoing distress and disadvantage, both to the individual and to society. Despite this, the prison population is one that has received scant research funding or attention in terms of effective treatment of trauma. This RCT tests the efficacy, acceptability and safety of EMDR in forensic patients with PTSD. EMDR is an effective psychological intervention for PTSD in a more general clinical population. There have been positive clinical reports about the use of EMDR in the correctional setting, however sample sizes have been small, and no trial based evidence exists. This study will build on clinical evidence around the effectiveness and feasibility of using EMDR with a forensic population. Effective treatment of PTSD in this setting has the potential to enhance quality of life and levels of functioning, and to reduce antisocial behaviors associated with reoffending.

One $1,000 dissemination travel grant was awarded to the following:

Anwar Khan PhD


Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing in the treatment of posttraumatic stress and comorbid disorders: A systematic review of recent literature

2018 Research Award Recipients

Two $25,000 research grants was awarded in October 2018 to the following:

J. Baptist PhD

Project Title:  Treating Suicidal Drivers with EMDR therapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial.


The long-term goal of this proposed research is to expand the field’s knowledge of what works to prevent suicide by evaluating the longitudinal effectiveness of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, an evidenced-based treatment for trauma, as a treatment for suicidal drivers (i.e., problems that lead to suicidality). The two main psychological suicidal drivers proposed by the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behavior (IPTSB; Joiner, 2005) are thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness. EMDR therapy has been used successfully to treat suicidal intent (Proudlock & Hutchins, 2016). The objective of this proposed research is to utilize a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) to compare the  efficacy of EMDR with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat suicidal ideation and risk. The central hypothesis is that psychotherapy aimed at reducing thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness will be effective at preventing suicide attempts. The rationale for this proposed research if that by examining the efficacy of EMDR against CBT, considered the gold standard for many mental disorders (Society of Clinical Psychology, 2016), clinicians will be better informed of how best to treat suicidal drivers to reduce suicidal risk. The proposed study has the potential to make a significant contribution to the field of mental health. The study can provide evidence for the efficacy of EMDR that in turn can help expand the repertoire of psychotherapies to reduce suicidal risk in persons with depression and pave the way for larger scale RCTs. It is expected that EMDR can be effective in treating suicidal drivers that have similar characteristics to triggers that are the targets of trauma treatment. Treatments for suicidal risks among persons with depression can reduce the emotional and financial cost of losing a loved one and strengthen families and communities.


C. Mueller-Pfeiffer PhD

Project Title: EMDR Treatment in PTSD Following Acute Coronary Syndromes.


A key question involves whether optimal treatment of ACS-induced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reduces PTSD signs and symptoms and thereby may offset the risk of recurrent or worsening cardiovascular disease. ACS-induced PTSD 1) is prevalent, 2) features signs and symptoms unique to internal ongoing somatic threat, with fears and worries that can be distinguished from PTSD resulting from external causes, 3) is persistent, 4) is associated with negative physical and emotional consequences, and 5) has not been the subject of randomized- controlled treatment trials (RCT). There is preliminary evidence suggesting that patients with cardiac-disease induced PTSD might particularly profit from EMDR. Nevertheless, this possibility has not been tested in ACS- induced PTSD. Currently, patients with ACS-induced PTSD are not routinely offered trauma-focused therapies, with a lack of scientific evidence likely being one major reason for this omission. If our proposed RCT shows that EMDR can be an effective treatment for the reduction of PTSD symptoms in patients with ACS, EMDR could be routinely implemented as first-line treatment. This knowledge might inform larger trials to test whether poor prognosis in terms of major adverse cardiovascular events can be improved through EMDR in patients with ACS and other types of cardiac-induced PTSD. Acute cardiac syndromes (ACS) can often result in debilitating and persistent psychological signs and symptoms.

One $25,000 research grant was awarded in May 2018 to the following:

M. Littel PhD

Project Title:  Improving addiction-focused EMDR: a reconsolidation-based approach.


The proposed project aims at a better understanding of the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms involved in the eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) treatment of addiction, one of the most prevalent mental disorders. Addiction-focused EMDR (AF-EMDR) is currently widely used and, although many initial studies indicate that this intervention might be effective, evidence is not conclusive. To date, AF-EMDR protocols have relied heavily on the original EMDR protocol for PTSD, whereas the nature of addiction memory and trauma memory differ substantially and their desensitization presumably requires different approaches. We will critically test three new, innovative experimental modifications to the current AF-EMDR protocol that take into account these differences and might improve its effectiveness. Overall, a more thorough understanding of the mechanisms of successful EMDR treatment of addiction will be achieved. A better understanding of these dynamics may ultimately lead to better treatment options, i.e. personalized treatment protocols for addiction.

2017 Research Award Recipients

Two grants, totaling $32,850 were awarded in 2017: including one $25,000 research grants and one $7,850 research grant.

One $25,000 research grant was awarded in September 2017 to the following:

A. Roberts PhD, R. Eads, LMHC; C. P. A. Brigham, LICSW; S. Burnham LICSW; & P. Krentzel, PhD

Project Title: The examination of the effects of the EMDR Group Traumatic Episode Protocol on anxiety, trauma and depression in patients living with a cancer diagnosis within the past year.


The purpose of the multi-site study is to examine whether the G-TEP protocol is effective and safe for use with cancer patients and significantly reduces post traumatic symptoms, anxiety, and depression. This is a research protocol testing the viability of extending EMDR formally used for individuals to a group setting with increased efficacy and economics as the potential benefit. The primary hypothesis is that the G-TEP will significantly lower test scores on the SPRINT, a measure for Post traumatic Stress Disorder, the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, which measures both more transient anxiety (state) and more characterological and enduring anxiety (trait) and the Beck Depression Inventory-II, which measures components necessary for a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder.

One $7,850 research grant was awarded in September 2017 to the following:

Dr. I.A.E. Bicanic, Dr. C.A.J. de Jong, Dr. J.H.C. van den Hout, & Dr. R.J.C. (Rafaële) Huntjens

Project Title: Early Intervention with EMDR to reduce PTSD symptom severity: A randomized controlled trial in recent rape victims. 

Update and Publication: To view publication please Click Here for Full PDF


In the Netherlands, approximately 3% of men and 12% of women have experienced rape in their lifetime. The risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for these individuals is high, with rates up to 40% at three months post-rape. The sexual assault centers in the Netherlands provide integrated care for victims of a recent rape. Besides medical care and forensic examination, the victims are offered immediate psychological care, aimed to alleviate acute post-traumatic stress symptoms. The psychological care includes monitoring of symptoms of post-traumatic stress, also known as watchful waiting. However, watchful waiting is not enough; that is, in an earlier study we found that about 40% of the sexual assault victims still developed PTSD. Therefore, investigating the efficacy of reducing the symptom severity of PTSD by a so-called early intervention is important.
The purpose of this study is to determine whether offering Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy at an early stage can be efficacious in reducing the symptom severity of PTSD, and other symptoms of psychopathology in victims of a recent sexual assault.  This study is a multi-center RCT wherein 34 victims aged ≥ 16 will be included 7 days post-rape after visiting/contacting one of the participating sexual assault centers. Participants will be randomly allocated to either Early EMDR therapy or Treatment As Usual (TAU) (watchful waiting). The Early EMDR group will receive the treatment between day 14 and 28 post-rape. The primary outcome is the severity of PTSD symptoms 12 weeks post-rape. Secondary outcomes are the presence of other psychopathology, especially dissociation and sexual problems. Also, the role of dissociation (peritraumatic and persistent) in both the development of PTSD and treatment response will be investigated.  If this study shows that offering EMDR therapy early is effective in reducing the symptom severity of PTSD, it would provide trauma therapists with a short preventive intervention to treat (recent) assault victims. It could also contribute to the prevention of re-victimization.

2016 Research Award Recipients

Seven grants, totaling $91,130 were awarded in 2016: including three $25,000 research grants, one $5,130 research grant, two $5,000 dissertation research awards, and one $1,000 consultation award.

One $25,000 research grant was awarded in September 2016 to the following:

Marleen Rijkeboer,  Marcel van den Hout, Erick ten Broeke | Utrecht University, Netherlands

Project Title: EMDR as an Innovative Strategy in the Treatment of OCD

The aim of this research is to critically examine the effect of EMDR added to Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) on treatment acceptability and outcome in patients with OCD. The evidence of the effect of EMDR for OCD is scant, although on theoretical grounds and clinical impressions it is hypothesized that EMDR will effectively reduce the impact of fear imagery in OCD, thereby lowering distress. Hence, it is expected that patients will be more prepared to engage in, and less inclined to drop-out, leading to an increase of the overall OCD treatment effect.

One $5,000 dissertation grant was awarded in September 2016 to the following:

Yvette Eriksen | Charles Sturt University, Australia

Dissertation Title:  Ecological Evaluation, Acceptability and Effectiveness of the Standard Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) Protocol for Posttraumatic Symptoms with an Aboriginal Australian Community: A Collaborative Mixed Methods Enquiry


There is no research to date evaluating the cultural sensitivity, acceptability or effectiveness of EMDR with Indigenous Australian peoples. This research aims to provide valuable, culturally appropriate evaluation of EMDR to inform future trauma-focused interventions for Indigenous Australian peoples.

One $1,000 research consultation grant was awarded in September 2016 to the following:

Amanda Roberts PhD, MA & Larry Shrier MA

Project Title: The EMDR Group Traumatic Event Protocol with an oncology population


The ultimate goal of this project is to show that the  EMDR Group Traumatic Event Protocol (G-TEP) is highly effective and safe for use with cancer patients and significantly reduces post-traumatic symptoms, anxiety and depression.

Two $25,000 research grants were awarded in May 2016 to the following:

G. Di Lorenzo, MD. PhD | University of Rome

Co-Applicants: L. Ostacoli, MD, A.Hofmann, MD & M. Pagani, MD, PhD

Project Title: Neurobiological processing of emotions in Major Depression: comparing the effects of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and Anti-Depressant Medication.


Depression is a severe challenge to mental health systems worldwide, and has significant neurobiological consequences. The aims of this study are 1) to compare the neurobiological effects of two different therapeutic interventions (EMDR and Anti-Depressant Medication) on emotion processing in adult patients with Major Depressive Disorder as assessed through High Density-EEG, and 2) to compare the efficacy of different interventions on clinical symptoms. The results of this study will help to improve the efficacy and effectiveness of treating the costly population of patients with depression.


C. Lee, PhD| Murdoch University, Australia

Co-Applicants: A. Arntz, PhD, F.R. Watt, MB, BS, FRANZCP & K. Boterhoven de Haan, PhD

Project Title: Imagery Rescripting (ImRs) vs. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as treatment of childhood-trauma related PTSD in adults.


Trauma that originates from childhood experiences can develop into a chronic condition having a lasting impact on an individual’s functioning and quality of life.  Both imagery rescripting (ImRs) and EMDR therapy seem highly acceptable and effective treatments, which are less demanding than other trauma treatments. They are brief trauma-focused interventions that limit the amount of exposure to traumatic material, and are thereby found to be less distressing.  The primary aim of this study is to compare these two trauma-focused interventions for treatment of childhood trauma-related PTSD.  A second aim is to explore the treatment experience from the participant’s perspective, and thirdly explore how EMDR therapy and ImRs treatments influence trauma memory narratives.

Updates and Research Publications:
  • December, 2017: The study has been published Boterhoven de Haan, K. L., Lee, C.W., Fassbinder, E.,  Voncken, M.J., Meewisse, M.,Van Es, S.M., Menninga, S., Kousemaker, M., and Arntz, A. (2017). BMC Psychiatry. BMC series. 201717:165

One $5,130 research grant was awarded in May 2016 to the following:

F.J.J. Ter Heide, PhD| Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Co-Applicants: J.W. Knipscheer, PhD, T.M. Mooren, PhD, R.J. Kleber, PhD & D. Medema M Sc

Project Title: Association between coping style and response to EMDR and stabilization therapy in refugees with PTSD.


There is currently a heated debate on the necessity of phased treatment for refugees who experience PTSD.  Some clinicians argue that treatment guidelines for PTSD should be followed and EMDR or TF-CBT be offered, while others argue that trauma-focused treatment should be preceded or even replaced by stabilization. Coping style is an important element in this debate. The study aims to determine 1) if coping styles in refugees change as a result of receiving EMDR therapy or stabilization therapy, and 2) if different coping styles affect the response to EMDR therapy or stabilization therapy?

One $5,000 dissertation grant was awarded in May 2016 to the following:

Michelle D. Morrissey, MS, LMFT | Northcentral University, Arizona

Project Title: EMDR-IGTP for Secondary Traumatic Stress/Vicarious Trauma among First Responders.


First responders experience daily exposure to critical incidences, which can increase the likelihood of developing vicarious trauma (VT) and secondary traumatic stress (STS).  This study will consider if the proposed treatment, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing-integrated group treatment protocol (EMDR-IGTP) can decrease PTSD-like symptoms associated with VT/STS and increase post-traumatic growth (PTG).  PTG has been defined as positive outcomes after exposure to traumatic events. Participants in this study will be nurses recruited from emergency rooms, EMS personnel, and firefighters who reside and/or work in the selected towns in Colorado.

2015 Research Award Recipients: $25,000 awards

$25,000 research grants were awarded in August 2015 to Dr Benedikt L Amann (EMDR bipolar protocol), in May 2015 to Dr. Marco Pagani (EMDR with PTSD in breast cancer) and in May 2015 to Dr. Luca Ostacoli and Dr. Arne Hofmann (EMDR vs CBT with current and recurrent depression: RCT)

One $25,000 research grant was awarded in August 2015 to the following:

Dr Benedikt L Amann, MD, PhD | FIDMAG Research Foundation / CIBERSAM

Project Title: Comparison of a novel Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) bipolar protocol versus Supportive Therapy (ST) in the prevention of affective relapses in bipolar patients with a history of trauma: a multicenter single-blind, randomized controlled trial.


Up to 60% of bipolar patients suffer from traumatic events, a comorbidity that causes a worsening in the outcome of the disease. Trauma focused treatment strategies for bipolar disorder are necessary but significant studies are lacking so far. A relatively new psychotherapeutic option is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. We previously found positive results in a first pilot randomized controlled trial in 20 subsyndromal bipolar with traumatic events in their history who improved in trauma and affective symptoms after 3 months EMDR intervention (vs TAU).

As a result of this trial we designed an exhaustive EMDR bipolar protocol with a focus on traumatic events and included 5 specific bipolar sub-protocols. Our aim is to test this protocol in a multicentre trial including 82 bipolar I and II patients with a history of traumatic events who will be randomly allocated to individual EMDR (n=41) or to individual Supportive Therapy (ST) (n=41). Patients will receive 20 EMDR sessions during 6 months. The primary outcome criterion is a reduction of affective episodes after 12 months. Psychopathology, the cognitive state (Screen for Cognitive State in Psychiatry-SCIP), social cognition (MSCEIT) and functioning (FAST) will be evaluated at baseline, after 3 and 6 months, and also at the 12 months follow up visit. Cytokines will be measured pre- and post treatment to examine immunological changes associated to the interventions.

Research Updates and Publications:

  • July, 2017: The various sites have been coordinated, the study is underway and 27 subjects have been entered. The protocol for the study has been published and other articles related to the study are under review:
    • Moreno-Alcázar A, Radua J, Landín-Romero R, Reinares M, Comes M, Jimenez E, Valiente A, Crespo JM, Vieta E, Novo P, Doñate M, Cortizo R, Pérez V, Lupo W, McKenna PJ, Pomarol-Clotet E, Amann BL: Study Protocol of a Single-blind, Randomized Controlled Comparison of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy Versus Supportive Therapy in Affective Relapse Prevention in Bipolar Patients With a History of Trauma, Trials (2017) Apr 4;18(1):160. (full-text link)
    • Landin-Romero R, Moreno-Alcázar A, Pagani M, Amann BL: How does eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy work? A systematic review on proposed mechanisms of action. Frontiers in Psychology(2017), under review.
    • Valiente-Gómez A, Moreno-Alcázar A, Treen D, Pérez-Solà V, Amann BL: EMDR beyond PTSD: A systematic literature review (2017) Frontiers in Psychology under review.
    • Novo P, Landin-Romero R, Guardiola-Wanden-Berghe R, Moreno-Alcázar A, Lupo W, Valiente-García A, Garcia F, Fernandez I, Perez V, Amann BL: 25 years EMDR: A systematic review and overview of its concept and scientific background. Rev Psiquiatr Salud Ment (2016) Feb 11. pii: S1888-9891(16)00019-7. doi: 10.1016/j.rpsm.2015.12.002.
    • Radua J, Grunze H, Amann BL: Meta-analysis of the risk of relapse in bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (2017) 86:90-98.
    • Amann, B. L., Radua, J., Wunsch, C., König, B., & Simhandl, C. (2017). Psychiatric and physical comorbidities and their impact on the course of bipolar disorder: A prospective, naturalistic 4‐year follow‐up study. Bipolar Disorders. 2017 May;19(3):225-234. doi: 10.1111/bdi.12495. 
    • Jiménez E, Solé B, Arias B, Mitjans M, Varo C, Reinares M, Bonnín CM, Saiz PA, García-Portilla MP, Burón P, Bobes J, Amann BL, Martínez-Arán A, Torrent C, Vieta E and Benabarre A. Impact of childhood trauma on cognitive profile in bipolar disorder (2017) Bipolar Disorders, in press.
    • Amann BL, Dominguez S, and Lee C: Eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy: A brief description and its evidence in posttraumatic stress disorder (2017) Frontiers in Psychology under review.
    • Moreno-Alcazar A, Treen D, Valiente, Sio-ErolesA, Pérez-Solà P, Amann BL, Radua J: Efficacy of EMDR in children and adolescent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (2017) Frontiers in Psychology under review.

Two $25,000 research grants were awarded in May 2015 to the following:

Marco Pagani, MD PhD 

Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, CNR Rome & Padua, Italy

Project Title: Neurobiological features and response to EMDR treatment of PTSD in breast cancer patients


Stress and or trauma-related symptoms among cancer patients have been recently investigated and associated to disease diagnosis and to the the potential life-threatening situation. Assuming that brain regions involved in PTSD in cancer patients are the same showing changes in different psychological traumas, is possible to deduce that therapies effective to treat PTSD in populations would do the same in cancer-related psychological treatment. To date no neuroimaging studies have evaluate the neurobiological effect of successful psychotherapeutic treatment for post-traumatic symptoms in cancer patients. The aim of the present study is: i) to treat by EMDR a cohort of breast cancer patients with PTSD; ii) to identify by Electroencephalography (EEG) the regions activated upon bilateral stimulation in both the initial symptomatic and the final asymptomatic phases; iii) to correlate the neurophysiological changes to the neuropsychological and clinical status.

Research updates and Publications:

  • To access a PDF of 114 slides from Dr. Pagani’s plenary presentation, “Imaging EMDR Related Neurobiological Changes”, given at the 2015 EMDRIA Conference in Philadelphia, PA click here.
  • July 2017: Data collection is complete and completion of analysis is anticipated for the fall
  • April, 2019: The study has been published Carletto, S., Porcaro, C., Settanta, C., Vizzari, V., Stanizzo, M., Oliva, F., Torta, R., Fernandez, I., Coletti Moja, M., Pagani, M., and Ostacoli, L (2019)

Dr. Luca Ostacoli and Dr. Arne Hofmann

St. Luigi Hospital, Turin, Italy, Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, University of Turin
Facharzt für Psychosomatische und Innere Medizin, EMDR Institut Deutschland

Project Title: Role of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) versus Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in reducing depressive symptoms in patients with Current Depressive Episode and Recurrent Depression: A multicenter randomized controlled clinical trial.


The current multicenter randomized study is organized from the EDEN network (European Depression EMDR Network) of EMDR Europe. The aim is to study if patients with current Depressive Episode and Recurrent Depressive Disorders benefit from a psychotherapeutic intervention (by using CBT or EMDR) in addition to standard clinical management. The study started in 2010 (randomization started at 1.1.2012). Two controlled pilot studies were done earlier in Germany from 2018-2012 in an outpatient and inpatient setting to check the effectiveness of adjunctive EMDR in depressive patients. Both studies yielded promising results. The first study is published by the JEMDR this august. The second is submitted to another peer reviewed journal. Both studies had no external funding and were done with volunteer work alone. The current study involves three Centers in three European Countries (Italy, Spain, Germany). Each Center randomizes patients with Current Depressive Episode and Recurrent Depressive Disorder in two treatment conditions (TAU+EMDR, or TAU+CBT). The data from all centers are collected in a web- database and will be analyzed by the Psychosomatic and Clinical Psychology Service, A.O.U. “San Luigi Gonzaga Hospital” (Italy) at the end of the intervention and at the follow-up phases (6 months, 1 year, 2 years), as described with more details in the “research design and methods” section. The centers of this study are financially independent and do most of the study on a volunteer basis like the pilot studies did. The minimum number of patients recruited by each center should be 30 patients. For the two University based centers we plan for 60 patients (Turin, Italy and Ulm, Germany). The structure of the study is such that it can succeed even if one or two centers cant fulfill their numbers of patients randomized. However, the volunteer structure that has worked well in our pilot studies slows down patient intake in our multicenter trial. That is why the time for intake of the study was recently extended to June 2015. The number of patients needed for a good consistency of the study would be 120.

Research update:

  • July 2017: The treatment phase is complete and the team is completing the last follow-ups. Preliminary data was presented at this year’s EMDR Europe Conference in Barcelona. A manuscript for publication is in preparation.

One $1,000 research consultation grant was awarded in April 2015 to:

April Wise, MFT LPCC, California Southern University

Project Title: The Effect of Two Protocols of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing on Persons with Co-occurring PTSD and Addictive disorders.


The incidence of co-occurring trauma and addictive disorders in the population is known to be high. This combination also presents treatment challenges; which symptoms to treat first and how to stabilize an individual to safely address PTSD and promote on-going sobriety. The EMDR Therapy standard protocol has now been used successfully for the treatment of trauma. Several EMDR addiction-specific protocols; DeTur (Popky, 2005), CravEx (Hase, 2009), FSAP (Miller, 2012) have been utilized for the reduction of substance abuse and behavioral addictive symptoms. The purpose of this study is to acquire new knowledge of how the use of the standard protocol and an addiction protocol in treatment of persons with co-occurring disorders of trauma and addiction affects recovery. The research implements a qualitative methodology to investigate lived experiences of participants who experienced EMDR in treatment, either in private practice settings or as part of a treatment program. It is anticipated that the perspectives gained from participants’ experiences will better allow clinicians to more skillfully and safely conduct case conceptualization in the integrated use of standard and addiction-specialized protocols in treatment.

2014 Research Award Recipients

Three $25,000 research grants were awarded in December 2014 to the following:

Erno J. Hermans, Ph.D; Co-Applicants: Lycia D. de Voogd, MSc; Jonathan W. Kanen, BSc

Radboud University Medical Centre

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging

Project Title – Neurobiological basis of EMDR: The medial temporal lobe suppression hypothesis


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has proven a promising treatment option for fear related mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the mechanisms by which EMDR exerts its therapeutic effects remain poorly understood. To develop such mechanistic insight and promote evidence-based practice, we propose to investigate the effects of lateral eye movements on fear memory retention in a well established experimental laboratory model of fear and safety learning. We aim to test a novel hypothesis derived from recent findings in human cognitive neuroscience, which have revealed that dissociable large-scale networks in the human brain compete and activate reciprocally. Our hypothesis states that deployment of endogenous attention during lateral eye movements, which activates a large-scale neural system in the dorsal part of the brain, leads to a suppression of another large-scale system that includes regions in the medial temporal lobe that are critical for formation and (re)consolidation of long-term memory for emotional events. We will test this hypothesis in healthy humans using functional neuroimaging. If successful, this research will greatly advance our understanding of the mechanisms of action of EMDR and thereby pave the way for advancement of the technique based on mechanistic understanding.

Research Updates and Publications:
  • October, 2018: The study has been published: de Voogd, L., Kanen, J.W.,   Neville, D.A., Roelofs, K., Fernández, G., and Hermans, E.J. (2018) .  Journal of Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0703-18.2018

E. C.  Hurley, Ph.D, Soldier Center, Clarksville, TN

Project Title – A comparative study of the efficacy of EMDR therapy in the treatment of simple PTSD and moral injury


An average of 22 veterans a day commit suicide while nearly one-fourth of veterans suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Additionally, many veterans who have served in combat struggle with guilt and moral injury.  There is a continuing need for effective psychological treatment for active duty military personnel and veterans.This study is designed to measure the effectiveness of EMDR therapy in the treatment of OIF and OEF veterans diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), guilt and moral injury.  Participants will include two diagnostic groups: Group 1 will consist of veterans diagnosed with simple PTSD; Group 2 will be comprised of veterans diagnosed with PTSD and moral injury (PTSD + MI).  Inclusion criteria for both groups will be determined by a diagnosis of PTSD using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS).  Additional measures for evaluating treatment response include the PCL-5, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES), Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, the Moral Injury Events Scale (MIES), and the Trauma Related Guilt Inventory (TRGI). The instruments will be administered repetitively at pretreatment, posttreatment, and 3, 6 and 12 month follow-up periods.  Each diagnostic group will receive 12 sessions of EMDR therapy, 90 minutes per session.  Statistical analysis will include a mixed analysis of variance with the between group variable (PTSD vs. PTSD + MI) with the within-group variable being Pre/Post/Follow-up (3, 6 and 12 months).  The PCL-5 changes between the two groups will be tested with the Random Regression Model (RRM).

Emre Konuk, MA and Zeynep Zat 


Partner University: Sivas University, Medical Faculty, Psychiatry Department

Project Title – EMDR Treatment of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a ‘chronic pain disorder’ characterized by pain, fatigue, and sleep difficulties (Yunus, 2002). There is no established treatment for it (Badash, 2013). In the literature, however, traumatic experiences and chronic pain seem to be linked to each other. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is recognized as an effective approach in the treatment of traumas (EMDR Institute, 2014). EMDR Fibromyalgia Protocol was specifically developed through a pilot study to offer an effective EMDR Therapy for fibromyalgia patients (in publish, Konuk et al., 2014). This study aims to recruit at most 30 people diagnosed with fibromyalgia for experimental group and at most 30 people diagnosed with fibromyalgia for control group.  It aims to do pre-post and follow-up measurements through Demographic Information Form, Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), Visual Analog Scale (VAS), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS), Trauma Symptom Check-list 40 (TSC-40), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PUKI), World Health Organizatıon Quality of Life Assessment (WHOQOL) in order to examine the effectiveness of EMDR Fibromyalgia Protocol in fibromyalgia treatment and other psychological problems including depression and trauma related symptoms. We are expecting to see a significant decrease in fibromyalgia symptoms, depressive symptoms, post traumatic stress disorder symptoms and also an increase in the quality of life and the quality of sleep as a result of EMDR therapy.

An additional $15,000 research grant was awarded in December 2014 to the following:

Joyce Baptist, PhD, LCMFT, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Project Title – Developing Evidence-based Practice for EMDR for Depression

Added to the $10,000 award granted in September 2014, this totals $25,000 awarded for the research study. See the original September 2014 award for the abstract of this study.

One $10,000 research grant was awarded in September 2014 to the following:

Joyce Baptist, PhD, LCMFT, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Project Title – Developing Evidence-based Practice for EMDR for Depression

The primary purpose of this project is to further understand the neurological mechanisms of EMDR and to gain more evidence for the efficacy of EMDR in treating depression. This study aligns with EMDR Research Foundation’s first research priority- to substantiate EMDR as an evidenced-based practice for depression. The two aims of the study are: 1) To test the efficacy of EMDR Therapy in reducing symptoms of depression, and 2) To determine brain activity and neuronal activation in participants receiving EMDR Therapy for depression. The study will employ a randomized controlled trail design and will examine the effects of bilateral ocular stimulation on the symptoms of depression. Changes in neurological functioning will be gathered using electroencephalograph (EEG) to record electrical activity resulting from neuronal activation.

Research updates:

  • July 2017: The study is ongoing. A CBT comparison group was added to the study. 25 subjects have completed the protocol. Preliminary results were presented at EMDRIA conferences in 2015 and 2016 and the study has been accepted for presentation at the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy in 2017. Data analysis to date provides promising preliminary evidence for the efficacy of EMDR in the treatment of unipolar depression.

One $1,000 research dissemination travel award grant was awarded in July 2014 to the following:

Lindsay Bira, M.S., University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fl

Project Title – Determining person-treatment fit for brief treatment of trauma in a community setting: Which interventions are best for whom?

This study, part of a larger NIH-funded study, compared three brief interventions (Psychological First Aid-PFA; Stress Management Therapy- SMT; and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing- EMDR) to determine whether certain interventions are better for certain types of people (considering gender, PTSD severity, substance abuse, childhood trauma, and borderline personality disorder) and trauma types (considering violent and bereavement related traumas).

Follow-up assessments were conducted at one, three and six months post-intervention and HLM analyses were used to test the hypotheses. Outcomes examined included PTSD symptoms, depression and physical symptoms. Examination of individual and trauma factors showed that EMDR worked best for those high in baseline PTSD and for those endorsing borderline personality disorders.   Reduction of PTSD after trauma exposure was obtained in as few as four sessions.

The grant money will be used for travel expenses related to a presentation of these results at the  International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) Annual Meeting in November.

One $1,000 research consultation award grant was awarded in February 2014 to the following:

Elaine Wynne, M.A., L.P. EMDRIA Certified Therapist & Approved Consultant | In collaboration with Joe Graca, Phd. And Hector Matascastillo, MSW, LICSW

Project Title – EMDR Outreach to Military Veterans—The Veterans Resilience Project of Minnesota

This Trauma Recovery / HAP – Veterans Resilience Project of MN sponsored outreach project has provided EMDR Therapy to veterans who would not otherwise receive EMDR treatment. It is intended that this project can serve as a template/model for future outreach projects.

While data collection has been an integral part of the project, the EMDR Research Foundation Consultation Award will be used to gain more expertise in data analysis.

Elaine writes:  “The project has an outcome management system in place following CARF guidelines. Qualitative and quantitative measures of efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction have been utilized and data collection has been ongoing since the onset of the project. The data collection is being done with utmost effort to insure privacy and confidentiality.  The project data base includes measures such as PCL’s, IES, DES and PTGIs plus measures of efficiency and satisfaction. Project feedback questionnaires will be going out shortly to all therapists, veterans and stakeholders involved with the project.”

The authors anticipate that the findings will add to the body of  published research on the effectiveness of EMDR with veterans. In addition it is anticipated that the data analysis can provide data driven feedback on what  features work best as well as areas for improvement which could enhance the success of future EMDR outreach efforts.


2013 Research Award Recipients

One $1,000 research consultation award grant was awarded in December 2013 to the following:

Catherine M. Butler, Ed.D, MFT

Project Title – Comparing the Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing to Treatment as Usual for Veterans with Military-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

To learn more about Catherine M. Butler’s 2012 dissertation award, scroll down to the 2012 Research Award Recipients. 

One $10,000 research grant was awarded in September 2013 to the following:

W. Markus (PhD candidate), Dr. G. de Weert, Dr. C.A.J. de Jong, Dr. E.S. Becker, Dr. Hellen Hornsveld

Project Title – From feasibility to efficacy: the use of EMDR to reduce craving and drinking behavior in alcohol dependent outpatients – A multiple baseline study and RCT (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01828866)

The objectives of this study are to determine the acceptability, feasibility and efficacy of EMDR as an intervention to reduce craving and alcohol use in alcohol dependent outpatients and gain insight in working mechanisms. The study design is a randomized controlled trail (RCT) with out-patient alcohol-dependent patients (n=100) with 2 (parallel) groups and repeated measures amounting to a 2 x between participants design with group (EMDR + treatment as usual (TAU) vs. TAU) and time of assessment (pre- x post-intervention x 1 month x 6 months follow up) as factors. The study population is patients with a primary diagnosis of alcohol dependence, who receive out-patient treatment in a facility for addiction care, age ≥ 18. For the intervention, participants assigned to the experimental group will receive EMDR (aimed at drinking behaviour and craving) + treatment as usual (TAU). The comparison group will only receive TAU (Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA) treatment, consisting of several interventions, based on behavioural therapy principles (Meyers & Smith, 1995).

Research upates:

One $10,000 research grant was awarded in April 2013 to the following:

Michael L. Blair, Ph.D. and Kathy Harm, Ph.D. | Crittenton Children’s Center | Kansas City, Missouri

Project Title – Children and Adolescents in an Inpatient Setting

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) will be applied to 100 children between the ages of 5-18 with random assignment of an equal number to participants in EMDR Therapy, or Skills-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.  Pre- and Post-tests will be given (Peterson-Quay, Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children, and a Follow-up Questionnaire), and other data will be collected (demographic information, medication therapies, treatment and placement histories, presenting problems, and length of stay).  Analysis of Covariance between treatment conditions across subscales of the RBPC in order to factor out pretest variance from between group comparisons at post-test.  Multivariate analysis is used insofar as no Total Score is provided for the RBPC. Separate analysis will be conducted for each dependent variable (TSCC and RPBC).   This will be the first study to verify the efficacy of the use of EMDR with children and adolescents admitted to an inpatient acute psychiatric hospital

2012 Research Award Recipients

One $1,000 research consultation award grant was awarded to the following:

Mcayla Sarno, Psy.D., LMFT

Project title – EMDR 5 Day Intensive

This pilot study tested the effectiveness of applying five consecutive days of EMDR treatment to eight female participants with PTSD symptoms. The study employed 2 instruments—the PTSD Life Events Checklist (PCL) and the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). Two sub-scales were used: Re-experiencing Symptoms and Avoidance and Numbing Symptoms. Pre and post treatment, each participant completed the PCL and the CAPS. Traumatic experiences included childhood physical and/or sexual abuse, rape, death of a parent or spouse, and witnessing a suicide and a robbery. The mean score for the 8 participants was 3.46, indicating a high level of seriousness of life events. Following EMDR there was a statistically significant pre-post decrease in frequency of re-experiencing, avoidance and numbing symptoms. Likewise, there was a pre-post decrease in intensity of re-experiencing, avoidance and numbing symptoms.

One $5,000 dissertation grant was awarded in April 2012 to the following:

Catherine M. Butler | Argosy University | San Diego, California

Dissertation Title – An Evaluation of the Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as Compared to Treatment as Usual for Veterans with PTSD

The Department of Veterans Affairs states that 95% of all military members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of their military service. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has proven to be a successful treatment for military related PTSD, however it has not been recently studied. This study is a comparison of EMDR and Treatment as Usual (talk therapy) for veterans with military related PTSD over a 12 session course of treatment in a pre-, post, and follow up design. Future studies will replicate this project in order to 1) increase the pool of subjects, 2) establish the effectiveness of EMDR over a prolonged amount of time, and 3) continue to evaluate the decrease or eradication of PTSD symptoms in veterans.

Research Update:

  • This study won the first place research poster award at the 2014 EMDRIA Conference. Click here for a PDF of the poster.

One $10,000 research grant was awarded in June 2012 to the following:

Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. and Ruth Lanius, M.D., Ph.D.

Proposed Research Title – Functional Neuroanatomy of Bilateral Eye Movements During Trauma Script Imagery

Despite substantial evidence of its effectiveness in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (e.g., Bisson et al., 2007; Bradley, Greene, Russ, Dutra, & Westen, 2005, van der Kolk et al, 2005), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) remains a controversial treatment. Most of this controversy has centered on the necessity and function of the eye movements or other bilateral stimulation techniques in promoting symptom reduction and integration of traumatic memories. Although several possible mechanisms of action have been proposed, the functional neurobiology has not yet been elucidated (see reviews Gunter & Bodner, 2009; Maxfield, 2008). At present, few studies have attempted to directly study the functional neuroanatomy of EMDR. Thus, we propose a mechanistic fMRI study to examine the neurobiological mechanisms underlying horizontal saccadic eye movements during exposure to trauma script imagery. The proposed study aims to systematically test the hypothesis of increased thalamic activation and connectivity during EMDR through visualization of functional neurological activity during trauma script imagery with and without horizontal or vertical eye movements. We will use concurrent fMRI, EEG, heart-rate variability (HRV), and skin conductance measurements throughout the protocol, in order to correlate the various measures of psychophysiological functioning and attempt to provide information to assist with integrating previous research findings with varied measurements. We plan to recruit 40 participants: 20 participants without a history of psychiatric disorders and 20 participants with PTSD.

Research updates:

  • July 2017: Recruitment of subjects is complete as is some of the data analysis. A manuscript for publication is in preparation.
  • Harricharan, S., McKinnon, M.C., Tursich, M., Densmore, M., Frewen, P., Théberge, J.,van der Kolk, B. & Lanius, R. (2019) Overlapping frontoparietal network in response to oculomotor and traumatic autobiographical memory retrieval: implications for Eye  Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2019.1586265

One $10,000 research grant was awarded in September 2012 to the following:

Kathleen Wheeler, Ph.D., APRN, FAAN; Ronald Ricci, Ph.D., Cheryl Clayton, LCSW, CSOTP, James Cole, Ed.D.

Project Title – A Randomized Clinical Trial of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Supportive Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in a Relapse Prevention Program (CBT-RP) for Sex Offenders: Treatment Effects and Long-Term Maintenance

This proposal seeks to determine the effectiveness of EMDR in treating sex offenders with Child Sexual Abuse through a randomized clinical trial. Twenty CBT therapists who lead mandated groups for sex offenders will complete Levels I and II EMDR training. From these CBT-Relapse Prevention groups, 90 participants will be recruited and randomized into one of three groups; CBT-RP group only, supportive psychotherapy with CBT-RP; and EMDR with CBT-RP, receiving 12 sessions, with pre, post, and follow-up at 12 and 24 months.

2011 Research Award Recipients

Two $10,000 research grants were awarded in November 2011 to the following:

Marco Pagani, Senior Researcher | Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, CNR in Rome & Padua, Italy

Research Team Member – Giampaolo Nicolais | Department of Psychology, University of Rome La Sapienza in Rome, Italy

Project Title – Pre- intra- and post-treatment EEG imaging of EMDR Therapy related changes in a cohort of patients and healthy controls

Electroencephalography (EEG) due to its peculiar time and spatial resolution will be used for the first time to fully monitor neuronal activation during a whole EMDR session including the autobiographical script. Twenty psychologically traumatised clients and 20 non symptomatic controls will be recruited for the study. Maximal cortical activations (Z-score>1.5) during the first EMDR session and during the last one, after the subjects will have processed the index trauma, will be evaluated by a dedicated EEG software (eLORETA). The prevalent activations as well as regional electric activity group differences between clients and controls will be assessed for all EEG bands (140 Hz) during both script listening and bilateral stimulation sets within the EMDR session and cortical maps will be created. Self administered neuropsychological tests will evaluate the subjective clinical status before and after therapy. The study aims to investigate the feasibility of EEG on-line monitoring of the cortical activations occurring during EMDR Therapy, more specifically during bilateral ocular desensitization and to disclose activation differences between clients and non symptomatic controls. Such complex methodology involving at the same time psychotherapists, physiologists, psychiatrists and EEG technicians makes possible to image for the first time the specific preferential brain activations caused by the therapeutic actions contemplated by EMDR protocol.

Research updates:

  • Preliminary findings have been published in European Psychiatry, 27, (Supplement 1), 1-1. doi:10.1016/S0924-9338(12)75329-4. Conclusions: “The implemented methodology made possible to image for the first time the specific activations associated with the therapeutic actions contemplated by EMDR. The findings suggest cognitive processing of traumatic events following successful EMDR Therapy supporting the evidence of distinct neurobiological patterns of brain activations during bilateral ocular stimulation associated with significant relief from negative emotional experiences.”
  • Pagani, M., Di Lorenzo, G., Monaco, L., Daverio, A., Giannoudas, I., La Porta, P., … Siracusano, A. (2015). Neurobiological response to EMDR therapy in clients with different psychological traumas. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1614. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01614
    Abstract: We assessed cortical activation differences in real-time upon exposure to traumatic memory between two distinct groups of psychologically traumatized clients also in comparison with healthy controls. We used electroencephalography (EEG) to compare neuronal activation throughout the bilateral stimulation phase of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) sessions. We compared activation between the first (T0) and the last (T1) session, the latter performed after processing the index trauma. The group including all clients showed significantly higher cortical activity in orbito-frontal cortex at T0 shifting at T1 toward posterior associative regions. However, the subgroup of clients with chronic exposure to the traumatic event showed a cortical firing at both stages which was closer to that of controls. For the first time EEG monitoring enabled to disclose neurobiological differences between groups of clients with different trauma histories during the reliving of the traumatic event. Cortical activations in clients chronically exposed to traumatic memories were moderate, suggesting an association between social and environmental contexts with the neurobiological response to trauma exposure and psychotherapy.  Free, full text article is available at:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4621396/

Benedikt Amann, MD, Ph.D. | Research Unit, FIDMAG – Hospital Benito Menni in Barcelona, Spain

Research Team Members – Dr. Antoni Pujadas, Dr. Edith Pomarol-Clotet, Dr. Peter J. McKenna, Dr. Pilar Salgado Pineada, Dr. Raymond Salvador Civil and Jose Ramon Landin-Romero

Project Title – A functional neuroimaging study in PTSD patients versus healthy controls before and after EMDR psychotherapy: implications for the neurobiological mechanism of action of EMDR

EMDR processes traumatic memories while patients are engaged in bilateral sensory stimulation. This intervention is of established clinical effectiveness but its underlying mechanism of action remains uncertain. Functional imaging changes are well-documented in PTSD, and recent evidence suggests that these include default mode network dysfunction. Imaging patients with PTSD before and after treatment with EMDR offers a means of determining which brain systems are involved in its therapeutic effect. Twenty patients meeting DSM-IV criteria for PTSD will receive 15-20 sessions of EMDR and will undergo pre- and post-treatment fMRI scanning during performance of trauma-evoking, emotional processing and working memory tasks. A resting state sequence will also be obtained for default mode network connectivity analysis. Pre-treatment scans in the patient group will be compared with those in a matched group of 20 healthy controls. We propose that EMDR will normalize pathological over- and/or under-activation in patients with PTSD. We also hypothesize that there will be treatment-related changes in cognitive-task-related de-activations and functional connectivity in the default mode network. We will examine to what extent any treatment-related changes correlate with clinical improvement. The results will help establish how and where EMDR exerts its therapeutic effects in the brain.

Two $10,000 research grants were awarded in May 2011 to the following:

Gail Ironson, MD, Ph.D. | University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL

Project title – The Effect of Three Treatments for Recent Trauma on Trauma-related Cognitions

This research project involves a comparison between three interventions (EMDR, stress management, and standard care) to “mitigate the development of PTSD and to protect the psychological and physical health in disadvantaged people.” “Aim 1: Effect of EMDR on outcome Variables: To determine the efficacy of EMDR compared to group administered stress management with a trauma focus (STRESS), and a psychological first aid control group on psychosocial and health outcome variables.” “Aim 2: Who benefits most from this brief intervention: predicting recovery for the outcome variables from the nature of the trauma, past trauma history, substance use, and borderline personality disorder?”

Research updates:

  • In September 2012, Dr. Ironson reports the preliminary results: In a study comparing the effectiveness of brief (4 sessions) treatment for acute traumatic stress, there was a significant effect of EMDR vs. Stress Management vs. Psychological First Aid on Post Traumatic Cognitions. People treated with EMDR had the largest reduction followed by SMT and people in the PFA condition did the worst. Findings were maintained at the 6-month follow-up. There was also a significant effect for the BDI at three months, and preliminary analyses of the 6 month data show a trend at 6 months (p=.08) but I have not yet done the analysis with HLM, so this is based on only subjects with complete data.

Michael Scheeringa, MD, MPH | Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA

Ana Gomez, MA, LPC | Phoenix, AZ

The aim of this research project is to evaluate the effectiveness of EMDR in “treating trauma-related depression in 6-17 year old children.” The children (n=40) will be randomly assigned to received either 8 sessions of EMDR or 8 sessions of standard treatment at a mental health clinic.

Research update:

  • In August, 2012, Dr. Scheering and Ms Gomez reported that: “We currently have five completers in each group. For those in the EMDR group (n=5), there was a significant decrease in depression symptoms over time when assessed over all three time points – pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 3-months follow-up (repeated measures mixed models regression, p=.01) The test for whether EMDR was superior to ST was not significant (p=.14). However, when only the pre-treatment to post-treatment were looked at separately, the interaction term was significant (p=.04), indicating that EMDR was superior to ST for treating depression immediately post-treatment. With the addition of three new clinicians shortly, we hope to collect the additional subjects that will be needed to provide stronger support for the hypotheses. By the end of the project we hope to be able to publish these results and add meaningful new information to the literature on EMDR, and use these data.”

2010 Research Award Recipient

One $5,000 dissertation grant was awarded to the following:

Sarah Schubert | Murdoch University in Australia

Ms. Schubert’s dissertation project is studying the underlying mechanisms of EMDR and its effectiveness to treat Timorese women suffering from PTSD. Given the pervasive war related trauma suffered by the Timorese people, the project closely aligns with Foundation’s interest in testing the effectiveness of EMDR in treating combat trauma.

Research updates:

  • In January 2016, Sarah wrote: “I am pleased to inform you that our research, which was made possible with the support of the EMDR Research Foundation, is in press with the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Our real world research that examined the effectiveness and underlying mechanisms of EMDR Therapy to treat trauma in Timor Leste has been written into two research papers.  The first of the papers has been accepted for publication, and the second has been submitted to the Journal of EMDR Research and Practice.”