Skip to content

    Mental Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Shock Therapy Takes on a New Form


    WebMD Health News

    June 1, 2001 -- Transcranial magnetic stimulation has emerged in recent years as an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy, offering a technique for stimulating the brains of people with severe depression without general anesthesia and without causing a seizure. The still-experimental therapy has generated substantial debate, with advocates claiming documented success, and others saying that lasting change is not possible without bringing about a seizure in the patient.

    But some researchers are putting a new spin on the new technology, using it to do what electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, does -- intentionally cause a person to have a seizure -- but in ways that may be better and safer, without the loss of memory that often accompanies ECT.

    Now, the first human trial in the U.S. using transcranial magnetic stimulation -- also called magnetic stimulation therapy, or MST -- to bring about a seizure has proven both feasible and safe, with important benefits over ECT, according to researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

    The study looked at 10 people with depression who received courses of both ECT and MST. Seizures were successfully induced in all 10 people using the new technology, and all treatments were well tolerated, says Sarah H. Lisanby, MD.

    Importantly, patients were able to recall their names, place, date, and location much faster following MST than they did following ECT. "After ECT it took 13 minutes for patients to become reoriented, Lisanby tells WebMD, "With MST it took less than two minutes."

    A test of people's ability to perform a task requiring concentration following the treatments also revealed a benefit over ECT.

    "After ECT patients took about four minutes to perform the task, but after MST it took about two minutes," Lisanby says.

    Lisanby is director of the Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory at New York State Psychiatric Institute and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She presented the findings at annual meeting of the Association for Convulsive Therapy, which met in conjunction with the American Psychiatric Association, in New Orleans last month.

    Whether the new procedure successfully treats depression remains to be seen, but the need to find safer alternatives to ECT makes research on the new technology invaluable.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    contemplation
    Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
    lunar eclipse
    Signs of mania and depression.
     
    man screaming
    Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
    woman looking into fridge
    When food controls you.
     
    Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
    Article
    senior man eating a cake
    Article
     
    Phobias
    Slideshow
    woman reading medicine warnings
    Article
     
    depressed young woman
    Article
    man with arms on table
    Article
     
    veteran
    Article
    man cringing and covering ears
    Article
     

    WebMD Special Sections