ECT: its brain enabling effects: a review of electroconvulsive therapy-induced structural brain plasticity

J ECT. 2014 Jun;30(2):143-51. doi: 10.1097/YCT.0000000000000129.


Background: Since the past 2 decades, new evidence for brain plasticity has caused a shift in both preclinical and clinical ECT research from falsifying the "brain damage hypothesis" toward exploring ECT's enabling brain (neuro)plasticity effects.

Methods: By reviewing the available animal and human literature, we examined the theory that seizure-induced structural changes are crucial for the therapeutic efficacy of ECT.

Results: Both animal and human studies suggest electroconvulsive stimulation/electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)-related neuroplasticity (neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, angiogenesis, or gliogenesis).

Conclusion: It remains unclear whether structural changes might explain the therapeutic efficacy and/or be related to the (transient) learning and memory impairment after ECT. Methods to assess in vivo brain plasticity of patients treated with ECT will be of particular importance for future longitudinal studies to give support to the currently available correlational data.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / adverse effects
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*