EMDR Study

Efficacy and Identification of Biomarkers of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Re-processing (EMDR) Trauma Therapy in Adolescents with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)



EMDR, PTSD, fMRI, Refugees, Trauma

Project Management

Prof. Dr. med. Birgit Abler, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy III, Ulm

Dr.phil. Joana Straub, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychotherapy Ulm

Project Term

To 04/2018 (if necessary to 2019)

Background & Aim of the Project

Many people experience traumatic events in which their own life or the life of a loved one was in danger. When certain symptoms come together, one speaks of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma therapy can help to relieve the symptoms associated with PTSD. An effective treatment is the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Advantages of EMDR are the partly non-verbal procedure and the short duration of treatment (approx. 8-10 weeks).

Who can participate?

  • Traumatized adolescents/young adults between 13 and 21 years of age who have not yet received trauma therapy.
  • Independent use of the German language should be possible (B1 level).
  • No psychotropic drugs should be taken, if participants are on medication the situation should be stable.
  • Participants should not suffer from epilepsy, craniocerebral trauma or claustrophobia or show any other contraindications for an MRI measurement.

The study aims is to show what changes can be registered after the therapy in comparison to before the therapy on a behavioral and on a (neuro-)biological level.

Description of the Project

How does the study work?

Interested participants are invited to an information meeting where they will be informed about the study and the inclusion criteria will be checked. If consenting to  participate in the study, a diagnostic appointment (duration: approx. 2-3 hours) and an appointment for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, duration: approx. 2 hours) will be arranged. The participants will then be randomly assigned to either the therapy or the waiting group. The therapy group immediately receives 8-10 double lessons of weekly trauma therapy. The waiting group receives the same therapy only about 8 weeks later. After the therapy or waiting period, another diagnostic and MRI appointment takes place. In the MRI scanner, participants are asked (1) to play a reward game where they can earn up to 25€ in the form of a voucher. Furthermore, (2) their personal trauma will be read to them in the MRT for 30 seconds. Here, only the text of the participant will be reproduced.

Contact Address

Funded by

Funding program (Bausteinförderung) for a Senior Clinician Scientist of the University of Ulm