Research Group Mission

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 the science of mental life.

What Is Mental Imagery?

We think in the form of either words or mental imagery. We know less about the latter. Mental imagery is like weak perception (without the percept) recruiting similar neural circuitry. Imagining daffodils, as Wordsworth wrote, “that flash upon that inwards eye” brings solace. Negative events flashing into mind, like intrusive memories of trauma, bring overwhelming emotions.  Allowing time travel, imagery can "flash-forwards" to suicide. By amplifying emotion and behaviour, imagery drives psychopathology across mental disorders. Directly asking patients about mental imagery benefits assessment. Being curious about mental imagery enriches the science of mental life, and may also open doors clinically.

Holmes, E.A. & Ågren, T. (2020). 100 words on mental imagery-100 words. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 216(4), 196-196


Head of Group



Postgraduate Students

  • Johann Hardar, PhD Student, University of Iceland
  • Kristjana Þórarinsdóttir, PhD Student, University of Iceland
  • Lisa Espinosa, PhD Student, Karolinska Institutet

Undergraduate Students

  • Johanna Palm, Master's Student
  • Ali Mahmoudi, Master's Student
  • Oscar Wallin, Master's Student
  • Ronja Widehammar, Master's Student
  • Siri Hansen, Assistant
  • Sara Ahmed Pihlgren, Assistant 

Affiliated Members

  • Andri Steinþór Björnsson, Professor of Psychology, University of Iceland
  • Ann Rudman, Registered nurse, Associate Professor, Department of Health and Welfare, Dalarna University, Sweden​
  • Anna Hörberg, Registered nurse (RN)/ambulance nurse, PhD and Senior Lecturer in Nursing, Dalarna University, Sweden
  • Alex Lau Zhu,  Trainee Clinical Psychologist, University of Oxford, UK
  • Kerry Young, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, UK
  • Lali Iyadurai, Senior Research Clinical Psychologist, UK
  • Veronika Kubickova, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, UK
  • Ellen Feldt, Master's Student, Karolinska Institutet


  • Beau Gamble, Researcher (2019-2021)
  • Anahita Geranmayeh, Research Assistant, Karolinska Institutet (2020-2021)
  • Emily Greenfield, DClin Psych Student, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, UK (completed 2021)
  • Johanna Motilla Hoppe, PhD Student (2021)
  • Brianna Garate, Bachelor's Student (2021)
  • Sara Ahmed Pihlgren, Bachelor's Student (2021)
  • Evelina Kontio, Master's Student and Research Assistant, Karolinska Institutet (2019-2021)
  • Sanne Annersand, Master's Student (2021)
  • Emma Odekvist, Master´s Student (2020/2021)
  • Roosa Porthén, Master´s Student (2020/2021)
  • Katherine Depa, Master´s Student (2020) and Research Assistant
  • Caterina Vannucci, Internship (2019/2020)
  • Ylva Valden, Master´s Student (2019)
  • Felicia Sundström, Master´s Student (2019)

Last modified: 2021-10-13