The Neurochemistry of Counterconditioning: Acupressure Desensitization in Psychotherapy

doi: 10.9769.EPJ.2009.1.1.JRL

By James R. Lane


A growing body of literature indicates that imaginal exposure, paired with acupressure, reduces mid-brain hyperarousal and counter-conditions anxiety and traumatic memories.

Exposure therapies that elicit the midbrain’s anxiety reflex and then replace it with a relaxation response are said to “reciprocally inhibit” anxiety. More recent research indicates that manual stimulation of acupuncture points produces opioids, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and regulates cortisol.

These neurochemical changes reduce pain, slow the heart rate, decrease anxiety, shut off the FFF response, regulate the autonomic nervous system, and create a sense of calm. This relaxation response reciprocally inhibits anxiety and creates a rapid desensitization to traumatic stimuli.

This paper explores the neurochemistry of the types of acupressure counter-conditioning used in energy psychology and provides explanations for the mechanisms of actions of these therapies, based upon currently accepted paradigms of brain function, behavioral psychology, and biochemistry.

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