Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is an effective treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. It uses a dual-task approach: Patients retrieve traumatic memories while making lateral eye movements. Laboratory studies have consistently shown that this dual-task component decreases the vividness of emotional memories, whereas neutral memories appear insensitive to the intervention. Hence, emotional arousal might play a crucial role in the (re)consolidation of the degraded memory. This study investigated whether boosting arousal levels would induce degradation of neutral memories by dual tasking. A total of 67 participants, 32 with performance anxiety, selected two vivid, neutral autobiographical memories, which were subjected to dual tasking or recall only. Half of the participants first underwent the Trier Social Stress Task to increase arousal. Only participants with performance anxiety in the arousal condition showed reduced vividness after the dual tasking relative to recall only. Thus, adding arousal to neutral memories makes them susceptible to the degrading effects of dual tasking.
Littel, M., Remijn, M., Tinga, A., Engelhard, I., & van den Hout, M. (2017). Stress Enhances the Memory-Degrading Effects of Eye Movements on Emotionally Neutral Memories. Clinical Psychological Science, 5(2), 316-324. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702616687292