Emily Holmes

Professor at Department of Women's and Children's Health; Percept

Visiting address:
MTC-huset, Dag Hammarskjölds väg 14B, 1 tr
752 37 Uppsala
Postal address:
Akademiska sjukhuset
751 85 UPPSALA

Short presentation

Emily Holmes, PhD, DClinPsych has a core interest in mental health science, and the translation of basic findings to create innovations to improve psychological treatments.

My driving force is improving mental health through science. My specialism is mental imagery.


  • bayesian experimental design
  • c9 design of experiments
  • clinical psychology
  • covid-19
  • emotion
  • emotion psychology
  • healthcare workers
  • intrusive memory
  • memory
  • mental health science
  • mental imagery
  • pandemic
  • psychology
  • psychopathology
  • randomised control trial
  • trauma


Holmes received her BA (Hons) in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, UK, and her Masters in Social Sciences at Uppsala University, Sweden. She is also a clinician and completed a clinical psychology training doctorate at Royal Holloway University of London, and a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. She became Professor in 2010 at the University of Oxford. She is the recipient of several international awards, including from the American Psychological Association, the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the Rudbeck Medal from Uppsala University. Holmes serves on the Board of Trustees of the research charity "MQ Foundation". She became a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien) in 2018. She was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts UK in 2023.


Holmes' Google Scholar publications can be found here and ResearchGate publications here

Holmes' field within psychology is experimental psychopathology in the areas of memory and emotion. Under the umbrella of "mental health science", her interdisciplinary research places cognitive science alongside clinical psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience for psychological treatment innovation. Work in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and bipolar disorder is linked by an interest in mental imagery and emotion.

Her research has demonstrated that mental imagery has a more powerful impact on emotion than its verbal counterpart. This is of clinical relevance given the historical focus on verbal thoughts (rather than imagery) in therapy. Her group’s particular interest is intrusive memories—imagery that springs to mind unbidden. An imagery focus opens up treatment innovations to help mood stability in bipolar disorder, and potential new methods to prevent intrusive memories after trauma. It also holds fundamental relevance to the science of mental life and the nature of human memory.

To learn more about Emily Holmes' research:

  • BBC World Service. (2023) Interview with Holmes, E. A., Zeman, A., Pearson, J., Gabias, P., Peters, M., Fisher, H. Glanville, J., & Jagatia A. (Host). (2023, June 16). Why can’t I see images in my head? In Crowd Science. BBC World Service. Here.
  • BBC Radio 4. (2022) Interview with Holmes, E. A. presented by Al-Khalili, J. (Host). (2022, August 20). Emily Holmes on how to treat trauma. In The Life Scientific. BBC Radio 4. Here.
  • BBC Radio 4. (2022) Holmes, E. A., Sijbrandij, M., Chaban, O.; Seth, A., MacPherson, F., O’Connor, D. & Hammond, C. (Host). (2022, May 10). Treating refugee mental health; Improving personal growth; Dreamachine. In All in the Mind. BBC Radio 4. Here.
  • BBC World Service. (2022) Yule, B., Holmes, E. A., Ventevogel, P. (Panel) with Iryna Frankova, Orest Suvalo & Hammond, C. (Host). (2022, April 2). War trauma and mental health. In The Evidence. BBC World Service. Here and here.
  • Uppsala University. (2022) Interview with Holmes, E. A. by Vice-Chancellor Hagfledt, A. and Borgegård, J. (2022, May 19). “Rektorspodden” on “Emily Holmes on mental imagery” Here.
  • Vox. (2022) Interview with Emily Holmes on mental imagery, sight, and emotion. Nguyen, M. (2022, March 30). Making sense: Sight unseen. (No. 5). Here.
  • Sveriges Radio. (2021) Interview with Emily Holmes on the KVA report ’Psykiska problem för personalen i coronans spår’. Nyheter från Ekot. Friday, 02 July 2021. Here.
  • BBC Radio 4. (2020) The Anatomy of Melancholy. Terrors and affrights? Episode 4 of 12. Thursday 14 May 2020. Here.
  • SVT Nyheter (2021). Traumatiserad vårdpersonal ska få hjälp i ny studie – via mobilen. Interview with Emily Holmes. Here.
  • Sveriges Utbildningsradio, UR Samtiden, Kunskapskanalen. (2019). Behandling mot flashbacks. [Psykologikonferensen 2019, Stockholm, Sweden.] 28 March 2019. Here.
  • Uppsala Universitets Magasin. Interview with Holmes, E. A. by Malmberg, Å. (2021). Pandemin slår ojämnt mot den psykiska hälsan. Uppsala Universitets Magasin 2021/2022, 34-39. Here.

Example Publications:

  • Iyadurai, L., Highfield, J., Kanstrup, M., Markham, A., Ramineni, V., Guo, B., Jaki, T., Kingslake, J., Goodwin, G.M., Summers, C., Bonsall, M.B., & Holmes, E. A. (2023). Reducing intrusive memories after trauma via an imagery-competing task intervention in COVID-19 intensive care staff: a randomized controlled trial. Translational Psychiatry, 13(1), 290. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-023-02578-0
  • Ramineni, V., Millroth, P., Iyadurai, L., Jaki, T., Kingslake, J., Highfield, J., Summers, C., Bonsall, M. B., & Holmes, E. A. (2023). Treating intrusive memories after trauma in healthcare workers: A Bayesian adaptive randomized trial developing an imagery-competing task intervention. Molecular Psychiatry, 28, 2985–2994. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-023-02062-7 medRxiv link: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.10.06.22280777
  • Bonsall, M. B., & Holmes, E. A. (2023). Temporal dynamics of trauma memory persistence. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 20(203). https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2023.0108
  • Penninx, B. WJH., Pine, D. S., Holmes, E. A., & Reif, A. (2021). Anxiety Disorders: Lancet Seminar. The Lancet, 397(10277), 914-927. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00359-7
  • Holmes, E. A., O'Connor, R. C., Perry, V. H., Tracey, I., Wessely, S., Arseneault, L., Ballard, C., Christensen, H., Cohen Silver, R., Everall, I., Ford, T., John, A., Kabir, T., King, K., Madan, I., Michie, S., Przybylski, A. K., Shafran, R., Sweeney, A., Worthman, C. M., Yardley, L., Cowan, K., Cope, C., Hotopf M., & Bullmore, E. (2020). Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(6), 547–560. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30168-1
  • Lau-Zhu, A., Henson, R., & Holmes, E. A. (2019). Intrusive memories and voluntary memory of a trauma film: Differential effects of a cognitive interference task after encoding. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(12), 2154-2180. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000598
  • Iyadurai, L., Visser, R. M., Lau-Zhu, A., Porcheret, K., Horsch, A., Holmes, E. A., & James, E. (2019). Intrusive memories of trauma: A target for research bridging cognitive science and its clinical application. Clinical Psychology Review, 69, 67-82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2018.08.005
  • Holmes, E. A., Ghaderi, A., Harmer, C., Ramchandani, P. G., Cuijpers, P., Morrison, A. P., Roiser, J. P., Bockting, C. L. H., O’Connor, R. C., Shafran, R., Moulds, M. L., & Craske, M. G. (2018). The Lancet Psychiatry Commission on Psychological Treatments Research in Tomorrow's Science. Lancet Psychiatry, 5(3), 237-86. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(17)30513-8
  • Visser, R. M, Lau-Zhu, A., Henson, R. N., & Holmes, E. A. (2018). Multiple memory systems, multiple time points: how science can inform treatment to control the expression of unwanted emotional memories. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373(1742), 20170209. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2017.0209
  • Holmes, E. A., Craske, M. G., & Graybiel, A. M. (2014). A call for mental-health science. Clinicians and neuroscientists must work together to understand and improve psychological treatments [Comment]. Nature, 511(7509), 287-289. https://doi.org/10.1038/511287a
  • Holmes, E. A., & Mathews, A. (2010). Mental imagery in emotion and emotional disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(3), 349–362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.01.001
  • Holmes, E. A., Mathews, A., Mackintosh, B., & Dalgleish, T. (2008). The causal effect of mental imagery on emotion assessed using picture-word cues. Emotion, 8(3), 395-409. https://doi.org/10.1037/1528-3542.8.3.395
  • Holmes, E. A., & Mathews, A. (2005). Mental imagery and emotion: a special relationship? Emotion, 5(4), 489-497. https://doi.org/10.1037/1528-3542.5.4.489


Recent publications

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Emily Holmes