Neuroimaging represents a powerful tool to investigate the neurobiological correlates of Eye Movements Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). The impact of EMDR on cortical and sub-cortical brain regions has been proven by several investigations demonstrating a clear association between symptoms disappearance and changes in cortical structure and functionality. The aim of this study was to assess by electroencephalography (EEG) and for the first time by positron emission tomography (PET) the changes occurring after EMDR therapy in two cases of psychological trauma following brain concussion and comatose state due to traffic accident. A 28 and a 29 years old men underwent extensive neuropsychological examination, which investigated: (i) categorical and phonological verbal fluency; (ii) episodic verbal memory; (iii) executive functions; (iv) visuospatial abilities; (v) attention and working memory as well as clinical assessment by means of psychopathological tests (CAPS. IES, BDI, SCL90R and DES). They were then treated by 8 sessions of EMDR. During the first session EEG monitoring was continuously performed and 18F-FDG PET scans, depicting brain metabolism, were acquired at rest within a week (T0). After the last session, in which the two clients were considered to be symptoms-free, neuropsychological, clinical and PET assessment were repeated (T1). PET data were semi-quantitatively compared to a group of 18 normal controls, as for EEG the preferential cortical activations were disclosed by thresholding the individual z-score to a p value<0.05. There was a significant improvement in clinical condition for both clients associated with a significant decrease in CAPS scores. IES and BDI were found to be pathological at T0 and improved at T1 in only one subject. Visuo-constructive abilities and abstract reasoning improved after EMDR in both subjects. As for EEG, the most striking changes occurred in fronto-temporal-parietal cortex in subject 1 while subject 2 showed only minor changes. PET showed more pronounced metabolism in orbito-frontal and prefrontal cortex at T1 as compared to T0 in both subjects. In conclusion both clients had a clear clinical improvement in PTSD symptoms associated with metabolic and electrophysiological changes in limbic and associative cortex, respectively, highlighting the value of EMDR also in such extreme pathological conditions.
Metabolic and electrophysiological changes associated to clinical improvement in two severely traumatized subjects treated with EMDR - A pilot study
Frontiers Research Foundation, Switzerland
Frontiers in Psychology 9 (2018). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00475