How does electroconvulsive therapy work? Theories on its mechanism

Can J Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;56(1):13-8. doi: 10.1177/070674371105600104.

Abstract

This article reviews 3 current theories of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). One theory points to generalized seizures as essential for the therapeutic efficacy of ECT. Another theory highlights the normalization of neuroendocrine dysfunction in melancholic depression as a result of ECT. A third theory is based on recent findings of increased hippocampal neurogenesis and synaptogenesis in experimental animals given electroconvulsive seizures. Presently, the endocrine theory has the strongest foundation to explain the working mechanism of ECT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy
  • Diencephalon / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / methods*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Neurogenesis / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome

Substances

  • Hydrocortisone