Weighing the risks against the benefits is key.
If you follow neuroscience and neuroengineering, it’s hard to ignore the offerings of cutting-edge research seeming to reanimate an antediluvian procedure of pelting the brain with electricity. Today’s more modern and civilized brain zapping is less invasive, more controlled and uses various levels of direct and alternating electrical currents to repair and augment a panoply of different cognitive functions. Results range from relieving severe, treatment-resistant depression, jumpstarting vocabulary recall, enhancing math skills, boosting self-control, fortifying the aging brain as well as reducing the intention to commit violent acts and sexual assault.
Electroconvulsive therapy can help people with severe depression. But it has a controversial past.
Although memory loss remains a risk, doctors say electroconvulsive therapy can be an important tool for patients with severe depression.
ECT doesn’t always work perfectly for everyone, but it can be a crucial tool for people whose illness has been resistant to medications and therapy, or who have been rendered so unable to care for themselves that other interventions may take catastrophically long to work.
Janalynne Rogers shares her experience with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), often called “shock treatment”—but it’s far less crude and risky than you might think...
The real effect from ECT is even stronger than what has been claimed in trials. This is because it produces its best effect in the most severely ill patients: those who stop talking, stop eating or become psychotic.
The treatment has changed a lot in the last few decades.
“Insanity Treated By Electric Shock” read the headline of an article published on July 6, 1940, in The New York Times. The article described “a new method, introduced in Italy, of treating certain types of mental disorders by sending an electric shock through the brain.”
My experience of my first ECT treatment can be described in one word: terror. As a social worker, I was aware of the procedure but still had visions of torture from watching movies and TV shows that depict ECT in a punishing way. All of my fear was combatted by the warmest nurses I have ever encountered. It was over before I even knew it. I awoke from the anesthesia and felt proud of myself for taking a risk.
Simon Winchester credits a treatment often thought barbaric with ending his mental illness.
The goal is the same as with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), colloquially known as shock therapy; for unknown reasons, sparking electrical activity in the cortex relieves symptoms of depression. ECT, however, hits a larger swath of tissue and may cause memory loss and other bad side effects as the seizures spread through the brain. Researchers hope the more localized MST will one day replace ECT.
The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to ban the devices used at the center, the only place in the country known to use electrical shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive students.
Ten years ago if you told me I’d beg a stranger to attach electrodes to my head to zap me out of despair, my retort would’ve been: No way!
Surgeon and author Sherwin Nuland discusses the development of electroshock therapy as a cure for severe, life-threatening depression — including his own. It’s a moving and heartfelt talk about relief, redemption and second chances.
Although it's been stigmatized in pop culture, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can help treat serious depression when nothing else works. We spoke to three women who have undergone the treatment.
The use of non-consensual electroconvulsive therapy in New Zealand has more than tripled in two years. Why are so many more mental health patients being shocked without permission?
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has come a long way since earlier, darker days when it was known as electric shock therapy and conjured images from One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest.
But just when it seems that ECT’s reputation is starting to recover, new criticisms are emerging.
Electroconvulsive therapy is not a one-and-done procedure. Mrs. Dukakis, 80, still receives maintenance treatment every seven or eight weeks. She said that she had minor memory lapses but that the treatment had banished her demons and that she no longer drank, smoked or took antidepressants.
She went public with her use of electroshock in 2006 in her book, “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy,” which she wrote with the journalist Larry Tye.
Electroconvulsive therapy is a reasonably safe solution for some severe mental illnesses.
Scientists have zapped an electrical current to people's brains to erase distressing memories, part of an ambitious quest to better treat ailments such as mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction.
How pop culture is holding back powerful medicine.
Can Sarah Lisanby help an infamous form of depression treatment shed its brutal reputation?
After 60 years of use, ECT is still the most controversial psychiatric treatment. Much of the controversy surrounding ECT revolves around its effectiveness vs. the side effects, the objectivity of ECT experts, and the recent increase in ECT as a quick and easy solution, instead of long-term psychotherapy or hospitalization.
No-one is sure how ECT works, but it is known to change patterns of blood flow in the brain, and also change the way energy is used in parts of the brain that are thought to be involved in depression. It may cause changes in brain chemistry, although how these are related to symptoms is not understood.
Electroconvulsive therapy is the best studied brain stimulation therapy and has the longest history of use. Other stimulation therapies discussed here are newer, and in some cases still experimental methods. These include:
vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)
repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
magnetic seizure therapy (MST).
deep brain stimulation (DBS)
Many critics have portrayed ECT as a form of medical abuse, and depictions in film and television are usually scary. Yet many psychiatrists, and more importantly, patients, consider it to be a safe and effective treatment for severe depression and bipolar disorder. Few medical treatments have such disparate images.
ECT is much safer today. Although ECT still causes some side effects, it now uses electric currents given in a controlled setting to achieve the most benefit with the fewest possible risks.