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April 1956

Neurophysiologic Effects of Electrically Induced Convulsions

Author Affiliations

San Francisco

From the Department of Neurology and the Spectrographic Laboratory, University of California School of Medicine.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1956;75(4):371-378. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1956.02330220035004

Numerous investigations have been made aimed at explaining the beneficial effects of electroshock therapy in certain psychiatric conditions, especially in depressed states. Although many hypotheses have been advanced,* studies on electroshock have been uniformly disappointing. Irreversible pathological effects have not been demonstrated after electroshock therapy.† The pathological changes which have been found with more intensive electroshock ‡ principally involve the vascular and perivascular structures. These changes, as pointed out by Ferraro and associates,20 suggest an increased permeability of the blood vessel walls. Other studies have shown neurophysiologic and biochemical alterations, such as are known to occur transiently with convulsions,§ but have not clarified the relationship between electroshock therapy and the more prolonged benefit it affords in psychiatric conditions.

On the other hand, there is considerable clinical evidence to suggest that the therapeutic effectiveness of electroschock in psychiatric disorders may be due to the neuronal discharge of the convulsion per

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