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May 1959

Relative Effectiveness of Various Components of Electroconvulsive Therapy: An Experimental Study

Author Affiliations

Los Angeles

From the Veterans Administration Center (Brentwood Neuropsychiatric Hospital); the Department of Psychiatry, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, and the Neuropsychiatric Institute.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1959;81(5):627-635. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1959.02340170093010

Electroconvulsive therapy is a complex treatment which involves at least three factors: (1) introduction of a quantity of electrical current into the brain; (2) rapidly induced loss of consciousness, and (3) motor convulsion. It is the aim of this study to determine experimentally the extent to which each of these components contributes to the therapeutic effectiveness of the over-all treatment. Although ECT is extensively used in the treatment of the mentally ill, it has never been firmly established whether it is the electrical current itself, or the motor convulsion, or the resulting unconsciousness which is the major therapeutic factor of the treatment; or whether the entire treatment complex is necessary.

The literature abounds in statistical and case reports comparing various forms of shock treatment, but few controlled studies have been done, especially with regard to the specific aim of this investigation (i. e., to determine the therapeutic efficacy of certain

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