Seizures induced in electroconvulsive therapy as a human epilepsy model: A comparative case study

Epilepsia Open. 2021 Dec;6(4):672-684. doi: 10.1002/epi4.12532. Epub 2021 Aug 20.


Objective: Standardized investigation of epileptic seizures and the postictal state may contribute to a better understanding of ictal and postictal phenomena. This comparative case study aims to assess whether electrically induced seizures in electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) show sufficient similarities with spontaneous seizures to serve as a human epilepsy model.

Methods: We compared six EEG recordings, three ECT-induced seizures and three generalized tonic-clonic seizures, using quantitative electroencephalography (EEG) analyses. EEG recordings during and after ECT sessions (under general anesthesia and muscle paralysis) were collected prospectively, whereas epilepsy data were selected retrospectively. Time-frequency representations, dominant ictal frequencies, and postictal alpha-delta ratios were calculated.

Results: In all EEG recordings, a decrease in dominant ictal frequency was observed, as well as postictal suppression. Postictal alpha-delta ratio indicated the same trend for all: a gradual increase from predominantly delta to alpha frequencies on timescales of hours after the seizure. Postictal spectral representation was similar. Muscle artifacts were absent in ECT-induced seizures and present in spontaneous seizures. Ictal amplitude was higher in epileptic than in ECT-induced seizures. Temporospectral ictal dynamics varied slightly between groups.

Significance: We show that ictal and postictal characteristics in ECT and patients with generalized tonic-clonic seizures are essentially similar. ECT-induced seizures may be used to investigate aspects of ictal and postictal states in a highly predictable manner and well-controlled environment. This suggests that clinical and electrophysiological observations during ECT may be extrapolated to epilepsy with generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Keywords: alpha-delta ratio; electroencephalography; ictal; postictal; time-frequency analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electroconvulsive Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / etiology