Convulsive Therapy

  • Max Fink
Part of the Readings from the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience book series (REN)


Convulsive therapy is a psychiatric treatment for patients with major affective disorders. The treatments seek to change mood, affect, and interpersonal behavior by altering brain functions by a series of grand mal seizures. A successful course requires from 8 to 12 treatments, spaced 48 to 72 hours apart. Seizures may be induced by chemical or electrical means with equal efficacy. The principal benefits are the rapid relief of disordered mood, improvement in the vegetative functions, and reduction in suicidal drive. The principal risks are the development of an organic mental syndrome, usually cognitive impairment (memory loss), and fracture. While 8% of patients admitted to academic in-patient psychiatric services in the U.S. receive electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the treatments are infrequently used in municipal, state, and federal facilities. About 100,000 patients are treated annually.

Further reading

  1. Fink M, Kety S, McGaugh J, Williams T, eds (1974): Psychobiology of Convulsive Therapy. Washington DC: VH Winston & SonsGoogle Scholar
  2. Fink M (1979): Convulsive Therapy: Theory and Practice. New York: Raven PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Lerer B, Weiner RD, Belmaker RH, eds. (1984): ECT: Basic Mechanisms. London: John Libbey & CoGoogle Scholar
  4. Malitz S, Sackeim HA, eds. (1986): Electroconvulsive Therapy: Clinical and Basic Research Issues. New York: New York Academy of SciencesGoogle Scholar
  5. Weiner RD (1984): Does electroconvulsive therapy cause brain damage? Behav Brain Sci 7: 1–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Max Fink

There are no affiliations available

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