Open Access Reversing Reciprocal Suppression in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex: A Hypothetical Model to Explain EMDR Effectiveness

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A theoretical model is proposed to explain desensitization during Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as resulting from the reversal of reciprocal suppression of cognitive processing in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Dual-attention and error monitoring are known to activate dorsal regions of the ACC that mediate metacognitive processing. Neuroimaging research has produced evidence that cognitive areas in the upper ACC may reciprocally suppress affective processing in the lower areas and vice versa. It is therefore proposed that the original eye-to-finger tracking task of EMDR may achieve its therapeutic effect by using error monitoring to reverse suppression of the upper ACC by the lower ACC. Contributions to EMDR effectiveness from resource installation and novelty-driven orienting reflexes may also influence ACC functioning. A distraction effect is proposed to be a negative and potentially disruptive by-product of very interactive stimulation tasks. A semantic priming procedure is suggested to limit distraction effects during more interactive forms of stimulation.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2007

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  • The Journal of EMDR Practice and Research is a quarterly, peer-reviewed publication devoted to integrative, state-of-the-art papers about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a broadly conceived interdisciplinary journal that stimulates and communicates research and theory about EMDR, and their application to clinical practice.
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