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August 10, 1940


JAMA. 1940;115(6):462-463. doi:10.1001/jama.1940.02810320042013

Since the convulsive treatment of schizophrenia was introduced by Meduna in 1934, many excellent results have been reported in the treatment of various psychoses with this technic. Moreover, the insulin-induced hypoglycemie shock described by Sakel has also had wide application. Now comes another variant of convulsive irritative therapy in the form of an electrically induced epileptic fit. In 1937 an Italian physician, Cerletti,1 reported to the Psychologic Congress at Milan that an electric current passed through the head of a dog produced a typical epileptic fit. His collaborator, Bini, asserted that the brain of a dog had tolerated, without any apparent damage, a current of 3,000 milliamperes. The animal died when the duration of the passage of the current was prolonged to sixty or ninety seconds. Bini believes that the duration of the passage of the current is more important from the point of view of any damage done to the tissue of the brain than the tension of the current. However, many physicians and physiologists who have had experience with such technics consider the assertion unbelievable and feel that under any circumstances the passing of electric current through the brain is a most hazardous procedure.

After much work on the technical details of their method, Cerletti and Bini1 applied the method to patients with schizophrenia. They report that the electrically induced shock was characterized by an immediate and absolute loss of consciousness, which was followed in from two to four seconds by a convulsive fit. The patients are said to have slept longer than after metrazol shock and to have been of good spirits on awakening. The authors also report that the patients had no recollection of their experience and