Pressing the reset button on a depressed brain


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the process of delivering small electric currents into the brain via electrodes placed on the temples. The brain is shocked into restoring the natural chemical balance and subsequently alleviates chronic depression .

Electroconvulsive therapy has been used for over 70 years by psychiatrists. It has only been through a recent study carried out by multidisciplinary team of clinicians and scientists at the University of Aberdeen that the mechanisms underlying this technique have begun to beunderstood.

During the study 90 severely depressed patients underwent the ECT procedure; scientists at the University of Aberdeen scanned their brains both before and after the therapy. It was concluded that the process of shocking the brain significantly reduces overactive connection between areas of the brain known to control mood and other areas known to play key roles in thought processes and concentration.

It is argued by the study authors that understanding the mechanisms behind this arguably controversial method of depression relief could allow it to be recognised as one of the most effective means of treating depression . Researchers suggest between 75 and 85 percent of patients who undergo the procedure no longer show symptoms of depression .

The research is ongoing and the study team are currently monitoring the participants of the study in order to establish any longer term impact of sending electric currents into the brain.

Despite the apparent effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy, it is by no means an easy option. Alternatives to electric shock treatments could include mindfulness meditation have a high recovery rate with no distressing procedure and with only positive side effects.