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RESEARCH POSTER PRESENTATION DESIGN © 2012
Individuals in recovery from involvement in high demand groups
struggle with managing a host of general and specific cult-related
trauma symptoms, a profile aptly named by Dr. Margaret Singer
as Post Cult Trauma Syndrome (PCTS). The rapidly expanding
field of mind science and neurophysiologic imaging has
significantly advanced the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). Can this new information offer diagnostic and
recovery options for those contending with cult-specific trauma
features after they exit a high demand group? This investigation
reviews potential effectiveness and/or limitations of the following
diagnostic techniques and therapeutic options for those
recovering from PCTS/PTSD:
1. Introduction to basic neurophysiology.
2. Physiologic basis of PTSD.
a. Diagnostic imaging techniques (PET, f MRI, SPECT).
b. PTSD-specific findings.
4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
5. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
6. Somatic Techniques (including mindfulness, yoga, etc.).
4. EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) draws
upon several different therapeutic approaches:
• Facilitates accessing of traumatic memories.
• Addresses maladaptive coping.
• Capitalizes on the neurophysiologic benefits of sensory input.
(Eye movement yields the most positive results.)
• Improved self-awareness of felt sense and memory.
• Reprocessing of maladaptive beliefs about self /
• Allows “completion” of the overwhelming, avoided trauma.
• Reintegrates emotion and thought.
• Cognitive-behavioral elements.
• Goal-oriented process.
Theory/speculation of mechanism:
• Stimulation of midbrain; optic tectum region (Figure 5).
• Nerve fiber connections from several brain systems pass
through region in close proximity / overlap.
• Higher brain center fibers (rational thought, memory).
• Lower brain center fibers (emotional / survival response).
2. PHYSIOLOGIC BASIS OF PTSD
PTSD does not result from lack of effort or desire to heal.
Diagnostic findings show that the process is
• Largely neurophysiologic (physical)
• Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Functional
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f MRI) assess metabolism
• Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography
(SPECT) has proven a more sensitive measure for PTSD by
detecting blood flow.
Intravenous injection of a radiographic substance absorbed
by brain tissue.
Figure 2 compares SPECT
findings of the undersurface
of the healthy brain
to a brain with findings
typical of PTSD.
The “diamond pattern” of
hyperactivity in PTSD is
very noticeable, even to
the untrained eye.
Behavioral manifestations corresponding to SPECT brain
imaging patterns include:
• Anxiety/panic, poor regulation of motivation, muscle tension,
pain (basal ganglia).
• Moodiness, depression, negativity, feelings of isolation
• Stuck on thoughts/behaviors, obsessiveness, lack of flexibility
(anterior cingulate gyrus).
• Distractibility, inattention, poor impulse control, poor emotional
awareness (prefrontal cortex).
• Disrupted self-awareness (posterior cingulate / BR23).
1. INTRODUCTION TO BASIC NEUROPHYSIOLOGY
Though former high demand group members experience unique
challenges in their recovery, they may find encouragement in
recent advances on understanding PTSD and benefit from new
treatment options. Available options for assessment and
treatment give former members more choices to pursue, but from
a perspective that also accommodates their unique needs and
Figure 1 depicts different brain areas that govern different brain
Over time, the mind loses smooth, healthy integration of
separate brain functions.
• More attention (blood flow and metabolism) shifts toward brain
areas responsible for survival.
• Concurrent shift into chronic state of lower activity and
perfusion of brain centers not directly related to survival.
Elements of the process include:
• Identification of maladaptive beliefs identified with trauma
• Exploration of self-awareness
(emotional / physical)
• Bilateral stimulation of
senses at key intervals.
during process (Figure 4)
• Visual tracking of
or audio stimulation
using a device.
Therapeutic Measures VERY Favorable Benefits:
• SPECT data yields very
positive results (Figure 6).
• Surpasses antidepressants and
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
• Works rapidly in non-complex
• Some researchers refer to
EMDR as a “cure”.
Neurofeedback involves self-monitoring of the electrical activity of
the brain with non-invasive electrodes that are placed on the
surface of the scalp.
• Self-awareness of behavior, mood, and brainwave pattern
• Modulate level of consciousness to achieve an optimal and
healthy brain wave pattern
5. EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUES
Some trauma therapists incorporate a play on acupressure into their
work with clients.
• Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
• Attractor Field Therapy.
• Energy “entrainment” via Chinese medicine meridians.
• Tapping with finger on certain points on their body while
• May include eye movements and humming.
No need of therapist.
Habit of emotional self-awareness.
Early research findings appear favorable.
However, commonly understood as pseudoscience.
6. SOMATIC TECHNIQUES !
Any activity that causes one to attend to how their body feels
produces a calming balance of hyperactive brain areas associated
with PTSD (particularly when combined with physical movement/
• Activation of the medial prefrontal cortex.
• “Mindful walking,” martial arts, yoga, exercise.
• Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute registry (Levine).
• Positive and encouraging research findings.
• However, meditative techniques may be too triggering.
Former group members struggling with PCTS may benefit
greatly from PTSD research findings and therapies.
Trauma specific therapies may also open up new avenues of study.
Amen DG. (1998) Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: A Breakthrough
Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and
Impulsiveness. New York. NY: Three Rivers Press/Random House Inc.
Amen DG. (2008 Dec) Brain SPECT Imaging in PTSD and EMDR.
Newport Beach, CA: Amen Clinic Continuing Education.
Craig G. (2008) The EFT Manual. Santa Rosa. CA: Energy Psychology.
Gudrun Sartory G, Cwik, Knuppertz H, Schürholt B, Lebens M, Seitz RJ,
Schulze R. (March 2013) In Search of the Trauma Memory: A Meta-Analysis
of Functional Neuroimaging Studies of Symptom Provocation in
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. PloS ONE, 8(3): e58150. 10.1371.
Hawkins DR. (1995) Power Versus Force: The Hidden Determinants of
Human Behavior. Sedona: Hay House.
Lanius RA, Williamson PC, Densmore M, Boksman K, Madhulika AG,
Neufeld RW, Gati JS, Memon RS. (2001) Neural Correlates of Traumatic
Memories in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Functional MRI Investigation.
Am J Psychiatry,158:1920–1922.
Larsen S. (2012) The Neurofeedback Solution. Rochester, NY: Healing Arts
Levine P, Frederick A. (1997) Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. Berkeley,
CA: North Atlantic Books.
Othmer S, Othmer SF. (2009) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The
Neurofeedback Remedy. Biofeedback, 37(1): 24–31.
Van der Kolk, B. (2010 October) The Long Shadow of Trauma (lecture).
Pioneers in Recovery Annual Symposium, 2010. Novi, MI.
Van der Kolk BA, Spinazzola J, Blaustein ME, Hopper JW, Hopper EK,
Korn DL, Simpson WB. (2007 Jan) A randomized clinical trial of eye
movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), fluoxetine, and pill
placebo in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: treatment effects
! and long-term maintenance. J Clin Psychiatry, 68(1):37-46.
* Expanded reference list available upon request (UnderMuchGrace@gmail.com)
Features of chronic arousal in
• Perception of imminent
• Different brain areas.
become hyper / hypoactive.
• Survival systems fail to shut
down despite threat no
• Exaggerated emotional
responses with avoidant
Heightened sensitivity to the
indicators that the mind has
associated with previous
threat and harm.
• Wave forms translated into music
or video game format
• Favorable SPECT data (Figure 3)
• However, training period to onset
of results is prolonged and
The Efficacy of
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Research
for Former Members of High Demand Groups
Cynthia Mullen Kunsman, RN, BSN, MMin, ND