Eye movement intervention facilitates concurrent perception and memory processing


A widely used psychotherapeutic treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves performing bilateral eye movement (EM) during trauma memory retrieval. However, how this treatment—described as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)—alleviates trauma-related symptoms is unclear. While conventional theories suggest that bilateral EM interferes with concurrently retrieved trauma memories by taxing the limited working memory resources, here, we propose that bilateral EM actually facilitates information processing. In two EEG experiments, we replicated the bilateral EM procedure of EMDR, having participants engaging in continuous bilateral EM or receiving bilateral sensory stimulation (BS) as a control while retrieving short- or long-term memory. During EM or BS, we presented bystander images or memory cues to probe neural representations of perceptual and memory information. Multivariate pattern analysis of the EEG signals revealed that bilateral EM enhanced neural representations of simultaneously processed perceptual and memory information. This enhancement was accompanied by heightened visual responses and increased neural excitability in the occipital region. Furthermore, bilateral EM increased information transmission from the occipital to the frontoparietal region, indicating facilitated information transition from low-level perceptual representation to high-level memory representation. These findings argue for theories that emphasize information facilitation rather than disruption in the EMDR treatment.






Sinuo Wang
Yang He
Jie Hu
Jianan Xia
Ke Fang
Junna Yu
Yingying Wang

Original Work Citation

Wang, S., He, Y., Hu, J., Xia, J., Fang, K., Yu, J., & Wang, Y. (2024, May).  Eye movement intervention facilitates concurrent perception and memory processing. Cerebral Cortex, 34(5). doi:10.1093/cercor/bhae190



“Eye movement intervention facilitates concurrent perception and memory processing,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 25, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/29189.

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