A group of Scottish researchers claim that they have finally solved the question of how electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treats depression. These findings are contained in a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers from University of Aberdeen and University of Dundee revealed that ECT works by affecting how different areas of the brain communicate with each other. ECT is a controversial treatment for depression which involves connecting electrodes to the temples and passing a small electric current through them.
The effectiveness of ECT has been debated every since the treatment has been in use since the 1930s largely due to the fact that its exact effect on the brain is not yet known. However the researchers said that their study on 9 depression patients proves that ECT works by reducing the "connection strength" between different areas of the brain.
"This theory has suggested a 'hyperconnection' between the areas of the brain involved in emotional processing and mood change and the parts of the brain involved in thinking and concentrating. Our key finding is that if you compare the connections in the brain before and after ECT, ECT reduces the connection strength between these same areas - it reduces this hyperconnectivity", lead researcher Professor Ian Reid said.