Fakultäten » Medizinische Fakultät » Konsiliarpsychiatrie und Psychosomatik, Klinik für » Dr. Christoph Müller-Pfeiffer » Mueller-Pfeiffer

Completed research project

Title / Titel Blocking Memory Reconsolidation by Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung Animal research suggests that reactivation (retrieval) of a memory can return it to a labile state from which it must be reconsolidated in order to persist. Blocking of reconsolidation by pharmacological or behavioral means offers the therapeutic possibility of weakening traumatic memories in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Two reconsolidation-based interventions, propranolol and extinction training, has been shown to weaken fear memories in human healthy subjects. However, the success of these interventions seems to be limited to weak conditioned fear memories. Both interventions failed to weaken stronger fear memories in healthy individuals in two previous studies of our group. Consequently, more effective interventions need to be tested in order to achieve the long term goal of developing novel treatment approaches for PTSD as a disorder of strong, over-consolidated traumatic fear memory. It is this gap in knowledge that we plan to fill.
Bilateral eye movements seem to be a promising candidate intervention for blocking reconsolidation due to the compelling evidence of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing as effective treatment in PTSD. Our aim is to test bilateral eye movements as an active reconsolidation-blocking intervention in an optimized differential fear conditioning procedure that we have recently developed. This novel experimental assay creates stronger fear memories in healthy individuals. If we succeed in showing that bilateral eye movements are capable to block stronger fear memories in healthy humans, we can move forward to optimize this procedure by testing various modifications, e.g., varying the delay between reactivation and eye movements in order to find the optimal delay, or varying the number of eye movements sets. Ultimately their efficacy will need to be tested in PTSD patients in order to develop novel therapeutic approaches or enhance available treatment protocols in PTSD. For instance, the efficacy of EMDR may be improved if bilateral eye movements are performed with some delay after reactivation of the traumatic memory in order to allow its destabilization.
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
PD Dr Christoph Mueller-Pfeiffer (Project Leader)
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
In collaboration with /
In Zusammenarbeit mit
Prof. Scott P. Orr, PTSD Research Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA United States
Dr. Thomas Zeffiro, Neural Systems Group, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston MA United States
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Dec 2015 to Dec 2016