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EFT Research Paper

Bifocal emotion regulation through acupoint tapping in fear of flying

Citation: Wittfoth D, Beise J, Manuel J, Bohne M, Wittfoth M. Bifocal emotion regulation through acupoint tapping in fear of flying. Neuroimage Clin. 2022;34:102996. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2022.102996. Epub 2022 Mar 30. PMID: 35378497; PMCID: PMC8980501.

Full Paper available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35378497/

Very few studies have investigated the neural underpinnings of bifocal-multisensory interventions such as acupoint tapping (tapping) despite their well-documented efficacy. The present study aims to investigate the neural and behavioral responses to tapping during the perception of phobic and generally fear-inducing stimulation in a group of participants with fear of flying. We studied 29 flight-phobic participants who were exposed to phobia-related, fear-inducing and neutral stimulation while undergoing fMRI and a bifocal-multisensory intervention session consisting of tapping plus cognitive restructuring in a within-subject design. During tapping we found an up-regulation of neural activation in the amygdala, and a down-regulation in the hippocampus and temporal pole. These effects were different from automatic emotion regulatory processes which entailed down-regulation in the amygdala, hippocampus, and temporal pole. Mean scores (±SD) on the Fear of Flying scale dropped from 2.51(±0.65) before the intervention to 1.27(±0.68) after the intervention (p <.001). The proportion of participants meeting the criteria for fear of flying also dropped from 89.7 percent before the intervention to 24.0 percent after the intervention (p <.001). Taken together, our results lend support to the effectiveness of tapping as a means of emotion regulation across multiple contexts and add to previous findings of increased amygdala activation during tapping, as opposed to amygdala down-regulation found in other emotion regulation techniques. They expand on previous knowledge by suggesting that tapping might modulate the processing of complex visual scene representations and their binding with visceral emotional reponses, reflected by the down-regulation of activation in the hippocampus and temporal pole. Bifocal emotion regulation was useful in ameliorating aversive reactions to phobic stimuli in people with fear of flying.

Keywords: Acupoint tapping; Emotion regulation; Fear of flying; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; PEP; Specific phobia.