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25-05-2021 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2021 Open Access

Cognitive Therapy and Research 6/2021

Psychological and Physiological Effects of Imagery Rescripting for Aversive Autobiographical Memories

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 6/2021
Miriam Strohm, Marena Siegesleitner, Anna E. Kunze, Gabriela G. Werner, Thomas Ehring, Charlotte E. Wittekind
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10608-021-10233-5.

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Imagery Rescripting (ImRs) is a promising intervention to reduce symptoms associated with aversive memories, but little is known about its working mechanisms. The present study investigates whether ImRs increases perceived mastery and attenuates emotional reactivity to memory retrieval on a subjective and physiological level.


Seventy-nine individuals reporting memories of distressing real-life events were randomly allocated to ImRs, positive imagery (PI), or no-intervention control (NIC). The memory was reactivated before the intervention and at 1-week follow-up to assess subjective measures and physiological reactivity (heart rate [HR], skin conductance level [SCL], and facial electromyography activity [EMG]) during memory retrieval.


ImRs was superior to PI and NIC on subjective memory distress and helplessness, but not on other emotions. ImRs did not exceed PI and NIC in reducing state stress symptoms or increasing perceived mastery. Physiological reactivity (HR, EMG) decreased from pre-intervention to follow-up with no differences between groups.


Positive effects of ImRs on helplessness and distress were found. Null findings regarding mastery might result from timing of its assessment or the fact that rather high-functioning participants were included. The lack of between group differences on physiological responses indicates that ImRs did not exceed habituation effects in the present sample.

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