The Science and Research Behind EFT Tapping
Many scientific studies (see Randomized Controlled Trials and/or Pilot Studies) have validated the effectiveness of EFT and continue to shed light on the mechanisms that underlie the process. Additionally, the physical effects of tapping on the body and brain are being measured and documented, as are the psychological benefits (see Meta Analysis, Research Reviews, and Clinical Applications, etc.).
In this section of AAMETInternational.org, you can explore the latest in scientific EFT research by topic, author, type of research and year published (see above). We've also outlined some of the major scientific areas where EFT is being studied and tested, and include brief summaries of some of the findings (below) – together with references and links for further information. The Science and Research archive is updated periodically as new articles and studies are published.
From Dr. Shoshana Garfield, AAMET Training Board:
Although we have not made the technological innovation to regenerate new nerves extensively, there is something else that we all do every day, and very well. We learn. What happens when we learn is that new connections between neurons get denser and more robust. That can be so extensive we can overpower previous habits that are wired into the body and even sometimes circumvent dead areas of the brain to regain, at least to a certain degree, what has been lost. The first chapter in Norman Doidge’s ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ is a poignant account of how one man – who happened to be a gifted medical student – refused to give up on his father,
After doctors proclaimed Pedro’s stroke to be permanently and severely debilitating. Bach-Y-Rita painstakingly got his father speaking and walking again, and his father went on to live a very full life; Pedro was still rock climbing when he died at age 72! Neurology hasn’t been the same since. Another example is Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist who had a stroke at 37 which could have left her greatly impaired - but she believed in neuroplasticity. She worked hard on her recovery and is a college professor, author of My Stroke of Insight.
EFT helps us unlearn what we don’t enjoy about our feelings and behaviours, and more quickly learn to do and feel what we do enjoy. If there is an emotional component, EFT may help. Two terms that are critical to understanding how this happens is "extinguishing" and "reconsolidation"; you can learn a lot about this by reading Bruce Ecker’s Unlocking the Emotional Brain. If you prefer audio learning, then David Feinstein’s audio from his short talk on extinguishing and reconsolidation will soon be available as a link on this site.
Thoughts and Feelings
When we have thoughts, conscious or subconscious, we often have a feeling that goes with it; happiness comes with thoughts we consider happy, despair with thoughts we consider to induce despair, sadness comes with sad-making thoughts. We DO feelings, in our brains and our body. Feeling each feeling is its own skill. And just like any other habit, the more we do a thing, the more we think a thought, the more we feel a feeling, the better we are at it.
When we are "good" at doing something, it means that we have a significant amount of brain real estate devoted to that something in terms of brain area and we have rich connections between neurons. Piano players have larger and denser body maps for their fingers, blind people have the areas otherwise devoted to sight taken up by other senses, and linguists have more real estate and neuron connection density devoted to language. People prone to panic attacks have a nervous system primed to react fearfully, and those evolutionarily ancient fear circuits are more robust, triggered by more perceptions and more easily.
Interventions like cognitive behavioural therapy help people learn new and genuinely valuable skills that, the more someone practices, the better they can be at – for instance, calming down. However, the sensitivity underneath the new skills of soothing remain in potential, and can be re-expressed under certain circumstances. In short, the panic attack potential remains. This new learning as an overlay is called "extinction." You can think of it as like water extinguishing a fire, but the combustible material can light up again later.
Still sticking with the panic attack example, EFT can help someone soothe themselves in a moment. That gives them the experience of having the panic, and having things be OK too. By using that meridian stimulation, over time, something quite special happens – the underlying potential for the panic attack is unlearned. It is unwired from the body. New skills replacing an old set of skills is called ‘reconsolidation’. Not only is the fire put out, the flammable material is cleaned away.
See Bruce Ecker’s book, Unlocking the Emotional Brain: Eliminating Symptoms at Their Roots Using Memory Reconsolidation."
Watson and Crick (and their teams) were considered the first to discover the spiral staircase structure of DNA, called a helix, made up of a small number of proteins that came in predictable pairs. Many thought we were on the verge of wiping out not only genetic diseases like Huntington’s Syndrome, we also thought we had found the ‘Lego set’ of nature – we could build anything. Genetic companies sprang up like a biological Silicon Valley – and just like there, most went bust.
Why? Because the promise of, "we can find this gene that will always do that one thing," simply wasn’t true.
Why Wasn’t It True?
Dr. Bruce Lipton, who wrote an engaging book called, The Biology of Belief, was a pioneer in the seemingly small territory of petri dishes. He found that DNA would behave differently in different environments. The teensiest nutshell of epigenetics is that the environment – which includes the internal chemistry of your body – can turn genes off and on. Genes can be regulated without medicine; we do it all the time, every minute. Our internal biological environment, deeply influenced by what happens outside of our bodies, is gene regulation.
This turned out to be so extensive, in fact, that if someone feels sad for even a few minutes, they will supress the functioning of their immune system by activating the genes that disable the immune system and inactivating the ones that strengthen it. Conversely, feeling the more pleasant side of feelings, like happiness, for even a few minutes, goes the other way around. Feeling happy turns on the genes that strengthen your immune system, and switches off the genes that weaken it.
Just like our brain, our internal environment is constantly shifting and changing, and our intentions map a path for our biology to follow.
The very capacity of our biology to follow our conscious intention is another explanatory strand in explaining why EFT and other interventions can work so very well."
"When we get stressed, we have had thoughts telling us we are in, right now, or about to be in, danger. This isn’t just about ancient circuits making us go into flight or fight when seeing a predator. Like horses and dogs, we are social creatures, and social dangers like rejection and even disapproval can, just like spotting a puma dangerously close by, can set off the same fear circuits inside of us.
Stress is a summary for a body state that is primed to accommodate survival. Stress experienced as something we can handle will result in fight or flight being triggered – that’s the part of the autonomic nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. This is action priming, experienced as raised heart rate, suppression of immune system and digestion, suppression of the detoxification function of the liver and kidneys, and getting rid of weight to enable higher speeds (soiling or wetting one’s underwear – guess that worked better when we didn’t wear clothes). Also, eraction times that go through our more recently evolved brain area, the neocortex, simply goes offline. We literally can’t think properly as our intellect and reason has been pretty much switched off.
Stress – danger – that we are not sure if we can handle results in the freeze response – like pressing down on the accelerator (sympathetic system) and the brakes (parasympathetic) at the same time. You have seen this in the taut muscles of a deer caught in headlights. It is a state of being frozen in terror.
There is a deeper state, brought on by what is called Inescapable Stimuli (IS). This is the deepest stress of all. When we can’t run, and we can’t fight our way out, and we learn or surmise that no matter what we do we cannot escape, another part of our nervous system takes over. We shut down; the Vagal Nerve System has taken over – you can read about this in detail in any book by Stephen Porges or catch some of his full YouTube videos. This is a state of flop, of collapse. It is useful to have the biological capacity for this collapse because the chewing and tearing of some predators are triggered by the thrashing of the prey – if one were to stop fighting, then it could increase chances of survival, and stress means survival of the physical organism is at the top of the biological agenda. This is Fight/Flight/Freeze/Flop – our bodies in distress.
EFT can help sooth the autonomic and vagal nervous systems and bring people back to balance. See Hypothmalus Pituitary Adrenal Axis (more coming soon)."
"Cutting-edge trauma research is indicating that body-based interventions are necessary for lasting change and meridian stimulation is a very effective somatic intervention.
The single article that most changed American energy psychology (EP) history is David Feinstein’s meta-analysis of the energy psychology efficacy literature, published in 2012. Before this article was written, the American Psychological Association (APA) was vociferously against all forms of energy psychology, and had stated that it would not even support research in the area. When this study came out, with the advocacy of senior EP practitioners in the US, the APA did a complete 180. David’s article convinced them not only that research was valuable and desirable; the APA now accepts continuing education credits from some carefully vetted EP courses run by ACEP and in their annual conference.
The take-away point from David’s article is that EP research indicates that meridian-based interventions are at least as good as conventional treatments, if not better, at relieving particularly post-traumatic stress, anxiety and other stresses and their related issues such as phobias. EP has attained what is the highest level of proof in the treatment of mental health: ‘probably efficacious’. Although the term ‘probably efficacious’ can seem wishy washy to people not familiar with the jargon, there is no higher category to attain in the APA system.
Top level medical doctors specialising in trauma, like Dr Robert Scaer (‘Body Bears the Burden,’ ‘Trauma Spectrum’ and www.traumasoma.com), and people researching and theorising about psychological recovery from trauma like Dr Stephen Porges (‘Poly Vagal Nerve Theory’) and Peter Levine ‘Waking the Tiger’, all recommend acupressure point stimulation to relieve psychological stress. Even Dr Gordon Turnbull (‘Trauma’), who has worked with special forces and countless other military personnel, talks about EFT as a promising field of treatment."
A major focus of PNI has been the study of stress and how the body's stress reponses --- linked to the emotions of anxiety, fear, tension, anger and sadness --- weaken the immune system, interfere with healing and even cause disease. For physical health and wellbeing, we need to be able to effectively release stressful emotions from the body and cultivate a more balanced state. This is precisely what EFT accomplishes."
We know there is something to the acupuncture notion of points because there are many studies done on the voltaic potential differences over the predicted points on the skin. But how do they all connect? There was a study done that wound up proving the existence of meridians – radioactive tracers were injected in blood vessels, in meridian points, along predicted meridian lines, and in neutral points where no circulation of any sort was expected. The results were conclusive – the blood vessels flowed in the expected directions, either towards (veins) or away (arteries) from the heart, but never in both directions. The neutral spots showed a pattern of spherical diffusion, like when you drop food colouring into the centre of a still bowl of water. At the acupoints, however, the tracers flowed in both directions, and traced the meridians according to established working knowledge. (Citation below)
A Study on the Migration of Radioactive Tracers after Injection at Acupoints American Journal of Acupuncture, Vol. 20, No. 3, 1992 Writers: Jean-Claude Darras, Pierre de Vernejoul, and Pierre Albarhde."