Yes, ECT causes memory loss. This is well established in the literature. The arguing point remains just how much memory loss does it cause?
Herbal Treatments for ECS-Induced Memory Deficits: A Review of Research and a Discussion on Animal Models - this article discusses the problems of memory loss during ECT and reviews the use of traditional herbal methods in combatting the deficits. From Journal Of ECT.
Participate in an ECT Evaluation
Harold Sackeim has invited anyone who feels they've suffered permanent memory loss from ECT to visit his center for an evaluation.
Memory and ECT
Bilateral and Unilateral ECT: Effects on Verbal and Nonverbal Memory is an intensive study of the kinds of memory loss associated with the two types of ECT. Authors Squire and Slater conclude that unilateral effects on memory are not as widespread as in bilateral ECT, but that "it should be noted that some risks to memory exist even for unilateral ECT." Additionally, they cite a survey by the APA which reported that 75 percent of 3,000 respondents used bilateral ECT for all their patients.
The famous Freeman, Weeks and Kendell study
Patients Who Complain, a descriptive study of 26 ECT patients who felt that ECT had left them with permanent, negative effects. Authors Freeman, Weeks and Kendell recruited complaining patients via a newspaper and through hospital personnel. A group of volunteers who did not have ECT acted as the control group. Careful attention was paid to trying to factor in medications and levels of depression to account for some memory loss (a common allegation from the ECT industry is that any memory loss is from these factors, and not the ECT itself). Say the authors, "However, even when these factors and three other variables were taken into account not all the difference could be explained."
Adverse psychological effects after ECT
A new study from the Journal of Mental Health examines the adverse psychological effects in ECT patients, as well as the lack of consideration doctors have given to their patients' views and concerns. Even Richard Abrams, who has been notably negligent about patient concerns admits "Doctors who give ECT have shown remarkably little interest in their patients' views of the
procedure and its effects on them." An interesting statement in light of his work.
Now Where Did I Put Those Keys?
An interesting article on memory, which says "A person who experiences physical trauma to the brain or an electroconvulsive shock may forget his
past while retaining the ability to create new memories."
Advocates for both sides debate the memory loss issue, and Harold Sackeim admits the famous 1 in 200 (1 in 200 persons receiving ECT gets memory loss) is not based in science. Despite the fact that this number was pulled out of a hat, it is the most commonly quoted "statistic" about memory loss. NAMI uses it, the APA uses it, as do other sources. It is also quoted in many consent forms. Yet it's made up. Repeated letters and phone calls to NAMI about this misinformation have mostly gone unanswered, except one email I received where a spokesman said "We don't care." Apparently lies are the game of the day for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
Read personal accounts of those who have lost their memories from ECT.
Here are some abstracts on memory/cognitive disturbance from my literature review when I wrote the Voices study on patient views.
From Advances in Therapy:
" Chemically or electrically induced fits have profound but short-lived effects on brain function, ie, acute organic brain syndrome."
She was shocked
Electroconvulsive therapy helped to treat her intractable, dangerous depression. But the
author was surprised to find out how much of her memory was wiped out.
Quite a bit more on the issue of memory loss in the news section and the resources section.
Does ECT cause brain damage?
A new study says patients undergoing maintenance ECT experience cognitive impairment.
Dr. John Breeding gives testimony to the New York State Assembly hearings on electroshock, May 2001. Dr. Breeding says ECT *always* causes brain damage.
Writing in Nature, Dr. Peter Sterling says: ECT damage is easy to find if you look for it, and says that ECT practitioners don't find any memory loss because they don't test for it.
What do they really think?
In public, psychiatrists say that ECT is safe. But what do they say to each other?
What does ECT do to the brain?
An in-depth look at what the brain goes through during ECT.
Do neurologists know something the rest of us haven't yet figured out?
Does ECT cause brain damage?
This MD says yes, in an article on ECT and EEGs.
Can ECT permanently harm the brain? This article says it has, and can, cause permanent brain pathology.
Dr. John Friedberg, writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, takes an in-depth look at the effects of ECT on the brain and questions, "Do we really want to offer brain damage to our patients?"
A lengthy chronology on epilepsy and ECT, something denied by the ECT industry. Yet there are many documented cases of ECT-induced epilepsy.
Psychopathology of Frontal Lobe Syndrome
This article from Seminars in Neurology details frontal lobe syndrome, which many neurologists believe is one of the side effects of ECT. The researcher explains how this injury is often difficult to measure clinically, but how damaging the results are to the person who has it.
Neuroscientist testimony on ECT brain effects
From Dr. Peter Sterling, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, this remarkable testimony and review of the available studies on the effects of ECT on the human brain. Analyzing years of data, including private communications with one of the leading researchers of our time on memory loss from ECT (Janis), Sterling strongly concludes that ECT does, in fact, cause organic brain damage, similar to that seen from the results of trauma or toxicity in the brain.
This journal article from Dr. Alan E. Brooker, clinical neuropsychologist with the USAF, details the complexities of evaluating the function of the brain. What this shows is how extensive the measurements are when truly understanding how one's brain is working on a day-to-day basis.
ECT as head injury?
In a report for the National Head Injury Foundation, the case is made that ECT works by inducing the effects of head injury. This well-researched report highlights the work of many neurologists and psychiatrists who believe this is the mechanism of action of ECT, as well as case reports of patients. Included are some great tips on recovery.
Electroshock: Scientific, ethical and political issues
From Dr. Peter Breggin, this comprehensive article explains how ECT works as head trauma, and goes into the scientific, ethical and political ramifications of the controversial treatment. A Must Read!
Dr. Charles Kellner (Hall of Shame winner) says "There are now important carefully controlled studies with MRI brain scans before and after ECT showing conclusively that there is absolutely no structural brain damage." Here are those "carefully controlled studies." Judge for yourself. Are these proof of "absolutely" no brain damage? View the video.
Quite a bit more on the issue of brain damage in the news section.
A new article about how ECT induces PTSD and what can be done to aid recovery, from David Armstrong. I strongly believe this is an effect of ECT that is almost always overlooked, so this is an important article to read! (PDF format - can get a free reader at Adobe.com if you don't already have it)