Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles have used modern technology to show that there are demonstrable effects in the brain when electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used. One of the criticisms of the technique is that it is not clear why it might have positive benefits – just because it works is not a good enough explanation (the same could be said for hitting your TV to get a better picture).
The study (Joshi et al. 2015) used MRI to measure the changes in the brain of 43 depressed patients undergoing ECT. The patients’ brains were scanned after their second session of treatment and again one week before treatment was completed. These scans were compared the scans from healthy people. They found that the areas of the brain involved with memory and learning changed over time – the patients’ hippocampus increased in size as the treatment continued. They also found changes in the amygdala, associated with mood and emotion.