This presentation will outline a recent study in which 20 adult patients with PTSD (CAPS diagnosis) were randomly assigned 12 sessions of either EMDR or Prolonged Exposure (PE). Clinical ratings (CAPS, PCL, Ham A, Ham D) were administered before and after treatment and there was a six week wait list period for each patient prior to therapy. MRI brain scans were administered before and after treatment for both treatment groups.
Subsequent analysis of clinical findings, volumetric change in brain structures known to be relevant in fear conditioning, and correlations of brain changes with clinical changes and with number of discrete traumas addressed in therapy will be presented and discussed. Both treatment groups improved significantly on all major clinical measures. Initial structural analysis has focussed on the amygdala and indicates a significant increase in left amygdala following EMDR but not following PE. No correlation was found between improvement in PTSD symptoms and increase in left amygdala. However a correlation was found between number of discrete traumas addressed in therapy and changes in amygdala volume.
To our knowledge this is the first study to compare structural brain changes following EMDR and PE and initial analysis of the amygdala changes indicates a possible difference in the biological effects of these two therapies. This difference may be due to more traumas being addressed within 12 EMDR sessions than 12 PE sessions. Further analysis of this rich data set will be undertaken and integrated into the presentation prior to the meeting within the context of the existing literature.
Dr Laugharne trained in Medicine and Psychiatry in London and Sheffield and is now an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Western Australia and a Consultant Psychiatrist of 20 yrs experience having worked in the UK, USA, and Australia. He set up the Fremantle Posttraumatic Stress Clinic in 2009 and has a particular interest in the investigation of the clinical and biological effects of EMDR. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications across several fields within psychiatric practice and presented extensively at international meetings..