ECT linked to impaired short-term memory

While long-term memory appears to be preserved in depressed patients
undergoing maintenance electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), these patients may
suffer short-term memory impairment and frontal function alteration, claim

“Memory impairment is the main neuropsychological problem associated with
acute ECT, but the specific subtypes of memory dysfunction associated with
maintenance-ECT remain unknown,” observe Miquel Bernardo (Hospital ClÌnic,
Barcelona, Spain) and colleagues.

To investigate, they assessed memory, attention, and frontal function in 11
patients with depression in remission, who had received an average of 36.1
previous ECT sessions with a mean intersession interval of 52.7 days. These
were compared with 11 age- and sex-matched patients with depression who had
not received ECT.

There was no difference between the two groups with regard to long-term
memory or in attention function.

However, encoding of new information and performance on most tests of
frontal function were significantly impaired in the patients receiving
maintenance ECT. Compared with controls, these patients also showed
alterations in verbal fluency, mental flexibility, working memory, and
visuomotor speed.

Thus, maintenance ECT for patients in this study was characterized by
“normal long-term memory, while frontal functions and short-term memory were
impaired,” say Bernardo et al.

“Further studies are required to establish the cognitive state in patients
during maintenance ECT, as this will help to determine their quality of life
and everyday functioning during treatment,” they conclude in the journal
Psychological Medicine.”

Psychol Med 2003; 33: 345ñ350

Comments (3)

MaryMay 22nd, 2007 at 9:54 am

i am currently undergoing ect, but i’m still very depressed. i also keep a headache. does the ect cause headaches?

MattAugust 5th, 2007 at 1:54 am

According to the authorities who are promoting ECT, headaches are a main side effect. However they try to say that it is a transient (passing) side effect that is of no concern. Confusion, memory loss, nausea and cognitive difficulties are also often cited in texts regarding ECT’s side effects.

An area of concern is that all these so called side effects are also listed by neurologists as the main effects of brain damage. Could there be a connection? Those who are selling the treatment say no. In fact it is constantly pushed by those are selling ECT that there is no evidence of any brain damage whatsoever.

There seems to be a “slight” conflict of interest here, not to mention a conflict of information.

Lets look at this:

Experts say “no evidence of brain damage” and in almost the same breath they say that the “side effects” are memory loss, confusion etc which are all symptoms of brain damage. Isn’t this just a little bit suspicious?

“Does ECT cause headaches?” is similar to asking “does getting hit in the head with baseball bat cause headaches?”

I’ve worked as an electrician and seen the results of 250 volts. Psychiatrists use up to 480 volts how on earth can these charlatans say that it causes no damage, even my 9 year old son is aware of the extreme power of electricity to cause harm.

EmilianoOctober 9th, 2010 at 2:00 am

I propose to subject a couple of these psychiatrists to the same treatment they claim is innocuous to the brain: let’s give them a tandem of say 10 to 20 ECT sessions and see how they fare after that. I bet they won’t remember even who was Sigmund Freud or Ugo Cerletti (the inventor of this criminal medical procedure), or even their own mother’s names!.They should not bear any objection to that since they are so positive about this therapy and this could be the best way to convince their patients about its safety. They won’t, of course. Ask Dr. Peter Breggin about this medieval torture being safe and harmless!!!.

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