Increased neurogenesis in a model of electroconvulsive therapy

Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Jun 15;47(12):1043-9. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(00)00228-6.


Background: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a widely used and efficient treatment modality in psychiatry, although the basis for its therapeutic effect is still unknown. Past research has shown seizure activity to be a regulator of neurogenesis in the adult brain. This study examines the effect of a single and multiple electroconvulsive seizures on neurogenesis in the rat dentate gyrus.

Methods: Rats were given either a single or a series of 10 electroconvulsive seizures. At different times after the seizures, a marker of proliferating cells, Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), was administered to the animals. Subsequently, newborn cells positive for BrdU were counted in the dentate gyrus. Double staining with a neuron-specific marker indicated that the newborn cells displayed a neuronal phenotype.

Results: A single electroconvulsive seizure significantly increased the number of new born cells in the dentate gyrus. These cells survived for at least 3 months. A series of seizures further increased neurogenesis, indicating a dose-dependent mechanism.

Conclusions: We propose that generation of new neurons in the hippocampus may be an important neurobiologic element underlying the clinical effects of electroconvulsive seizures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites
  • Apoptosis
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Division
  • Dentate Gyrus / cytology
  • Dentate Gyrus / growth & development*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Antimetabolites
  • Bromodeoxyuridine