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.