Treating Depression With Electroconvulsive Therapy

By Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby, MD Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Director, Brain Stimulation and Neurophysiology Center Duke University School of Medicine

Posted on | By Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby, MD | Comments ()

What does the future hold?

ECT has been modernized greatly over the years, with each advance leading to improvements in safety. Research is continuing to come up with even newer means to improve the safety of seizure therapy. One such experimental advance developed by our team is the use of magnetic fields to induce the seizure more safety. This is called Magnetic Seizure Therapy (MST). Magnetic fields are more controlled, and can target specific brain regions more accurately than standard ECT.

MST is an experimental treatment that combines the advantages of magnetic fields with the efficacy of seizures, in an attempt to lower the risk of memory loss. Results to date have been encouraging, and studies are underway comparing standard ECT with MST. We are also conducting research into ways to prolong the beneficial effects of ECT and prevent relapse, with a special focus on depression in the elderly. Depression can come back in the weeks to months following ECT, so it is important to receive a maintenance treatment to sustain the benefits.

We are currently researching the best way to maintain remission following ECT by comparing medications with continuing single ECT treatments on a maintenance schedule based upon individual symptoms, so a person only receives a treatment when they need it.

Article written by Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Director, Brain Stimulation and Neurophysiology Center Duke...