Journal article

Can working memory account for EMDR efficacy in PTSD?


  • 01.11.2022
Published in:
  • BMC Psychology. - Springer Science and Business Media LLC. - 2022, vol. 10, no. 245, p. 1-12
English Abstract
Background: Although eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has been shown to be effective in
the treatment of PTSD for years, it remains controversial due to the lack of understanding of its mechanisms of action.
We examined whether the working memory (WM) hypothesis –the competition for limited WM resources induced by
the dual task attenuates the vividness and emotionality of the traumatic memory – would provide an explanation for
the beneficial effect induced by bilateral stimulation.
Methods: We followed the Prisma guidelines and identified 11 articles categorized in two types of designs: studies
involving participants with current PTSD symptoms and participants without PTSD diagnosis.
Results: Regardless of the types of studies, the results showed a reduction of vividness and emotionality in the recall
of traumatic stimuli under a dual-task condition compared to a control condition, such as recall alone. However, two
studies used a follow-up test to show that this effect does not seem to last long.
Conclusion: Our results provide evidence for the WM hypothesis and suggest that recalling a traumatic memory
while performing a secondary task would shift the individual’s attention away from the retrieval process and result in a
reduction in vividness and emotionality, also associated with the reduction of symptoms.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de Psychologie
  • English
Open access status
Persistent URL

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