Leaning forward into adversity takes courage. Research now shows that the brain may actually reward this courage. Following ongoing research is exciting as the scientific community learns more about our brains, bodies, and the healing process. In the interview below, neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman who specializes in vision and stress research, explains that when we step forward to encounter the world by walking, our eyes move laterally back and forth to help guide us through space. Dr. Huberman suggests that this act of stepping forward or moving into stressful situations in a positive way, often paired with lateral eye movements, may help resolve our stress response. Huberman illustrates that the brain responds to this “moving forward” by suppressing activity in the amygdala (the fear or alarm center of our brain) and signaling to the reward areas of our brain to release dopamine (a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we experience pleasure). So, our brains may actually reward us when we confront stress in adaptive ways in our lives. This idea is important when considering courage and hope for a better outcome in any therapy.
Dr. Huberman also cites research regarding the role of eye movements in EMDR therapy (eye movements are one form of dual attention stimulus used in EMDR therapy). He points to several research studies showing that “lateralized eye movements quiet the amygdala.” In trauma therapy, it is understandable that quieting the fear center of the brain is beneficial when facing an overwhelming memory. Moving forward or creating the idea that we are moving forward with lateral eye movements in EMDR therapy, may create distance from the negative emotions of a traumatic experience and reward someone for leaning into difficulty. These ideas are fascinating as we continue to uncover what the brain and body have to tell us about the journey of healing from trauma.
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