Little is known of the mechanism by which electroshock therapy produces its well-recognized and striking effects in the depressive disorders. Electroshock therapy is highly effective and almost specific for the depressive attack of manic-depressive type and for other psychotic depressions, as well as for excitements of various kinds, including both manic and catatonic excitement. However, there are certain limitations such as failure to prevent recurrences. Pentylenetetrazol (Metrazol)-induced convulsive therapy, the predecessor of electroshock, was equally effective, but was abandoned for the safer and better-controlled method of using an electric current to induce the essential element, the convulsion.
Since a phenomenon acting on the cerebrum produces the cure, it seems reasonable to look for some cerebral change as the essential mechanism of cure. Because of the cumulative manner in which electroshock works, with each succeeding convulsion adding its effect to the previous, we
BADAL DW, SPILMAN EL. Brain Extracts of Electrically Convulsed Animals: Effects on Behavior and Electroencephalograms. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1961;4(1):98–104. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1961.01710070100014
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