Emily Holmes' research group


Emotional Mental Imagery Lab (EMIL) for psychological treatment development

The work in Emily Holmes' research group is underpinned by a core interest in mental health science, and the translation of basic findings to create innovations to improve psychological treatments. The research combines perspectives from clinical and experimental psychology. It takes an interdisciplinary approach including psychology, psychiatry, cognitive science, neuroscience and so forth.

Mental imagery is implicated across psychological disorders from intrusive memories of past trauma, to flashforwards to the future in bipolar disorder. Mental imagery involves ‘seeing in the mind’s eye’, ‘hearing in the mind’s ear’ et cetera and has a more powerful impact on emotion than its verbal counterpart (thinking in words). It therefore presents exciting opportunities for transdiagnostic mental health treatment innovation. Mental imagery is also fascinating in its own right in terms of better understanding one of the various shapes human thinking can take.

One current focus in Emily Holmes’ research group is to use current knowledge about mental imagery to develop innovative treatments for psychological trauma among refugees. The number of refugees is the highest ever worldwide. Among refugees and asylum seekers there is a high prevalence of psychiatric disorders that involves intrusive memories, for example PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The need for new effective treatments that can reach a large population has never been greater.

Research themes

  • To use psychological science to investigate the mechanisms underlying psychological disorders, with a particular focus on mental imagery.
  • To use findings from this basic research to develop more focussed and effective psychological interventions.
  • To develop innovative methods to target key cognitive processes when these become problematic in psychological disorders whether via face-to-face therapy, computers, or simple cognitive tasks.
  • To address topical areas of need such preventative approaches soon after trauma occurs, or for solutions that are scalable to reach the large number of refugees who have experienced trauma.

Public communication of science

Selected publications

Preventing intrusive memories after trauma via a brief intervention involving Tetris computer game play in the emergency department: a proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial.

Computer Game Play Reduces Intrusive Memories of Experimental Trauma via Reconsolidation-Update Mechanisms.

The trauma film paradigm as an experimental psychopathology model of psychological trauma: intrusive memories and beyond.

Applications of time-series analysis to mood fluctuations in bipolar disorder to promote treatment innovation: a case series.

Mental Imagery in Depression: Phenomenology, Potential Mechanisms, and Treatment Implications.

Mental Imagery: Functional Mechanisms and Clinical Applications.

A call for mental-health science. Clinicians and neuroscientists must work together to understand and improve psychological treatments.

"I can’t concentrate": A feasibility study with young refugees in Sweden on developing science-driven interventions for intrusive memories related to trauma.

See Emily Holmes' personal page for a full list of publications by her.

Group members