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View Full Version : Psychiatry: a new, safer alternative to ECT?



Death and the Sun
Wednesday, April 6th, 2005, 03:59 PM
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has a pretty ugly reputation -- I'm sure anyone who has seen "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" remembers the gruesome scenes of Jack Nicholson twitching and convulsing as electric current is fed into his brain.

However, these days ECT is considerably safer. It does not cause any visible muscular spams, although it does cause a "brain seizure", which results in temporary unconsciousness. Its results are also somewhat unpredictable: among the possible complications are memory loss, inability to concentrate and personality changes.

These days ECT is used mainly as a last resort to cure depression, when all other treatments have proven uneffective. Despite its risks, ECT is also the most effective treatment for depression: it is estimated to be effective in 75% of all cases, when antidepressants only do the trick in about 50% of the time.

ECT has an important advantage: its results are instant. It is often used to cure depression among the elderly.

Soon, a treatment with all the benefits of ECT and none of the risks may be available. The procedure is known as repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). While it is necessary to turn the current up very high for it to be able to penetrate the skull, magnetic waves pass through bone very easily. Magnetism is also much safer in other ways and easier to control than electric current.

For now rTMS is still considered an "alternative" treatment, because not enough is known of the long-term effects of magnetism in the brain. However, some studies suggest it may be a good treatment for schizophrenia.

Other researchers suggest that in the future, rTMS may be used to regularly "recalibrate" one's brain according to his/her present needs or desires.


Sources:
The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression by Andrew Solomon
http://info.med.yale.edu/psych/clinics/rTMS.html

Arcturus
Thursday, April 7th, 2005, 01:55 PM
Despite its risks, ECT is also the most effective treatment for depression: it is estimated to be effective in 75% of all cases, when antidepressants only do the trick in about 50% of the time.


D: "So, you're depressed?"
P: "Yeah... sure... whatever..."
D: "Lets try this..."
*BZZZZZZZZZZZT*
P: "Phlurgkmrlgfrrr...."
D: "So, still depressed? Or should we go again?"
P: "NO PLEASE DOC, I'M FINE! SEE? BIG SMILE, BIIIG SMILE!!! NOT AGAIN!!"