Shock treatment, brain damage, and memory loss: a neurological perspective

Am J Psychiatry. 1977 Sep;134(9):1010-4. doi: 10.1176/ajp.134.9.1010.


The author reviews reports of neuropathology resulting from electroconvulsive therapy in experimental animals and humans. Although findings of petechial hemorrhage, gliosis, and neuronal loss were well established in the decade following the introduction of ECT, they have been generally ignored since then. ECT produces characteristic EEG changes and severe retrograde amnesia, as well as other more subtle effects on memory and learning. The author concludes that ECT results in brain disease and questions whether doctors should offer brain damage to their patients.

MeSH terms

  • Amnesia, Retrograde / etiology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / etiology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Cognition
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Functional Laterality
  • Gliosis / etiology
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / injuries