Experts uncover the way ECT treatment works

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  • Controversial electroconvulsive therapy could be used as an alternative treatment for depression after scientists uncover the way it works for the first time

    For the first time, a team of researchers understand how electroconvulsive therapy works suggesting it could now be used to treat depression.

    Since the 1960s a lack of knowledge about ECT, which works by sending electric currents through the brain, has made it controversial. But now scientists believe they have uncovered the way it works.

    Furthermore, by affecting the connections in the brain that control mood and temperament, scientists believe ECT could help manage the symptoms of depression.

    The findings from the University of Aberdeen show symptoms of severe depressive disorder are greatly reduced with ECT treatment by calming down the overactive connections between parts of the brain that govern mood.

    Study leader and professor of psychiatry at the University of Aberdeen, Ian Reid, says: ‘ECT is a controversial treatment, and one prominent criticism has been that it is not understood.’

    ‘However we believe we’ve solved a 70 year-old therapeutic riddle because our study reveals that ECT affects the way different parts of the brain involved in depression connect with one another.’

    The team believe that along with increased knowledge about depression their findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show for the first time that depression could be treated by changing brain connectivity.


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