Searching for the mechanism(s) of ECT's therapeutic effect

W. Vaughn McCall, Chittaranjan Andrade, Pascal Sienaert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The exact therapeutic mechanism of action of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) remains unresolved. Numerous psychological theories from decades ago have been proven untrue. In the ensuing years, ECT has been proven to have numerous reproducible effects on brain chemistry, regional brain activity, electroencephalographic sleep stages, and neurogenesis. Clinically, ECT has been shown to have antidepressant, antipsychotic, antimanic, antiparkinsonian, and anticonvulsive effects. It is possible that different biological effects of ECT are responsible for different clinical effects or that several biological effects in concert work together to produce a given clinical effect. This paper comments on the array of possible mechanisms and points toward the future of mechanistic research in ECT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-89
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of ECT
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • ECT
  • Mechanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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