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J Psychiatr Res. 2009 Feb;43(5):553-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.08.004. Epub 2008 Oct 11.

Antipsychotic effect of electroconvulsive therapy is related to normalization of subgenual cingulate theta activity in psychotic depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine, Psychiatric Iowa Neuroimaging Center, 200 Hawkins Drive, W278 GH, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.



Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is one of the most effective options available for treating depressive and psychotic symptoms in a variety of disorders. While the exact mechanism of ECT is unclear, it is known to increase metabolism and blood flow specifically in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC is a cortical generator of theta rhythms, which are abnormal in patients with depression and psychotic disorders. Since patients with psychotic depression are known to respond particularly robustly to ECT, we investigated whether the therapeutic effect of ECT in this population was related to normalization of abnormal theta activity in the ACC.


We obtained 19-lead electroencephalography (EEG) data from 17 participants with psychotic depression before and 2-3 weeks after a full course of ECT. EEG data was analyzed with quantitative measures and low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA) compared to an age-adjusted normative database.


Quantitative EEG analyses revealed that theta band (4-7 Hz) activity was the only frequency band that changed with ECT. LORETA analyses revealed that the primary site of theta activity change was within the subgenual ACC (Brodmann area 25). There was a positive association between increased subgenual ACC theta activity and decreased psychotic symptoms. The degree of low theta activity in the subgenual ACC prior to ECT predicted the antipsychotic response of ECT.


The antipsychotic effect of ECT is related to normalization of subgenual ACC theta hypoactivity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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