May 14, 2012 by Cara Flanagan.
Lucy Tallon describes her own experiences of ECT in a recent article in The Guardian and says the experience is nothing like it is portrayed on screen, for example recently in the programme Homeland. See Lucy’s article here.
The photograph is from Homeland.
March 20, 2012 by Cara Flanagan.
A team of Scottish researchers (Perrin et al., 2012) have produced evidence that ECT decreases connectivity in the brain of depressed patients, leading to a reduction in symptoms. They used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to scan the brains of nine patients, all of whom had severe clinical depression and had not responded to drug therapy. Each received ECT for two sessions per week, an average total of 8 treatments. They were scanned before ECT was applied, and then again afterwards. Using a new mathematical analysis they were able to determine to what extent 25,000 different brain areas ‘communicated’ with each other. This indicated changes after ECT in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortical region; connectivity was reduced and this was associated with improvements in depressive symptoms.
When a patient has depression, parts of the brain that control mood and those involved in concentration and thinking have an overactive connection. So it appears that ECT ‘turns down’ these connections leading to improved mood.
March 4, 2011 by Cara Flanagan.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has been arguing in favour of ECT as a safe treatment for severe mental illness, according to a short piece in the current issue of the BPS magazine The Psychologist. The APA claims that ECT is effective 80% of the time and there is no evidence for any associated brain damage.
On the other hand a recent review by Bentall and Read (2010, see here) concluded that any benefits of ECT, when they arise, are minimal, short-lived and come with a significant risk of memory impairment and a slight risk of death. This conclusion was based on a review of studies over the last 60 years where the use of ECT for depression or schizophrenia was compared to a placebo control procedure. Bentall and Read’s final word is that the evidence is so poor that it’s use cannot be scientifically-justified.