There’s a new article on Frontiers in Psychiatry. It’s titled Electroconvulsive treatment: hypotheses about mechanisms of action. The authors are Roar Fosse, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Vestro Viken State Hospital Trust, Lier, Norway, and John Read, Institute of Psychology, Health, and Society, University of Liverpool, UK. Thanks to Mick Bramham on Twitter for the link.
The authors reviewed a large number of human studies in which the brains of people receiving shock treatment were observed using EEG, PET, SPECT, and fMRI.
The article is comprehensive and very technical, but the essential finding was:
“In considering this evidence, we hypothesize that ECT affects the brain in a similar manner as severe stress or brain trauma which activates the HPA axis and the dopamine system and may compromise frontotemporal functions.”
In other words, the immediate effect of shock treatment is similar to the effect of severe stress or brain injury. This doesn’t sound like the “safe and effective” treatment routinely touted by psychiatry.