May 1956

Anxiety and Cerebral ExcitabilityProlongation of Seizure Latency by Anxiety and Other Factors in Patients Undergoing Electroshock Therapy

Author Affiliations


From the Institute for Psychosomatic and Psychiatric Research and Training, Michael Reese Hospital, and the Departments of Physiology and Psychiatry, the Chicago Medical School.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1956;75(5):534-547. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1956.02330230084011

I. INTRODUCTION  Anxiety is generally regarded as a problem of prime importance for clinical psychiatry. The literature is replete with descriptions of its subjective symptomatology and peripheral physiology, as well as its cultural and philosophical significance.* The fact that anxious patients characteristically show signs of restlessness, sympathetic overactivity, and resistance to sedation has led some authors to assume that anxiety is associated with an increased excitability of brain and thus with an increased susceptibility to seizures.† However, we are not aware of any reports on direct measurements of cortical excitability in anxiety. Therefore, the present study was designed to shed some light on the central physiology of anxiety by measuring variations in seizure threshold in hospitalized psychotic patients undergoing electroshock treatment (E. S. T.). Our own observations, previously reported in brief,14 show that human anxiety is associated with an elevation of threshold to electrically induced seizures. Parallel studies on