The Influence of Varying Degrees of Activation and Working Memory Taxation of an Aversive Memory combined with a Dual-task on the Emotionality and Vividness of this Aversive Memory
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Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a well-established therapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR is characterized by a dual-task approach: The patient holds a traumatic memory in mind while simultaneously making voluntary eye movements, resulting in reduced vividness and emotionality of the traumatic memory. This study investigated whether increasing the activation of a negative memory would improve the effectiveness of a single session in reducing vividness and emotionality of the negative memory in a non-clinical population. Participants were assigned over four conditions. Emotionality and vividness were measured before and after the test phase. Treatment acceptability was measured with a self-reported questionnaire. Surprisingly, we found that varying degrees of activation and working memory (WM) taxation did not influence the reduction of emotionality upon recollection of the memory. The results indicated that the condition with extra activation, by means of a screenshot of the aversive memory, did not outperform the other conditions in reducing vividness. Furthermore, the results indicated that the conditions that involved both WM taxation and recalling of the aversive memory were more effective in reducing vividness than the conditions that involved either only recalling of the aversive memory or only performing a dual-task. These findings support the WM theory, such that WM taxation while recalling an aversive memory decreases vividness. The treatment was evaluated as moderately acceptable. More research is needed to investigate the effect of treatment acceptability on effectiveness.
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