Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an uncommon treatment for severe, chronic depression. It is used sparingly, partially because our understanding of why and how it works is still in the dark ages. It also doesn’t help that it can cause memory loss in many patients who undergo it (usually confined to just memory around ECT treatments, but occasionally also around older, longer-term memories as well), as well as increasing attention and concentration problems in a minority of people who try ECT.
However, a new study sheds light on the possible mechanism for how electroconvulsive therapy works, based upon one theory of how depression works in the brain.
The theory goes like this — depression isn’t caused by too little brain activity. It’s actually caused by too much brain activity, an overactive brain that has accidentally “hot-wired” multiple brain networks together. (How and why this hot-wiring occurs is still a mystery.)
So how can ECT undo this hot-wiring?