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J Affect Disord. 2012 Feb;136(3):1039-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.11.040. Epub 2011 Dec 29.

Corticolimbic balance shift of regional glucose metabolism in depressed patients treated with ECT.

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Department of Neuropsychiatry, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan.

Erratum in

  • J Affect Disord. 2014 Jan;152-154:543.



Although the clinical efficacy of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been well established in patients with pharmacotherapy-resistant depression, the physiological mechanism and changes in regional cerebral function after ECT are unclear.


We recruited 16 depressed patients who underwent ECT, and 11 healthy controls. The change in cerebral glucose metabolism was evaluated before and after a series of ECT using [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET).


Before ECT, the patient group showed significant hypometabolism in the superior frontal gyrus, and hypermetabolism in the inferior temporal gyri compared with healthy controls, and these abnormalities remained after ECT. Comparisons between pre- and post-ECT metabolic activity revealed decreased regional metabolism in the frontotemporal neocortical areas after ECT, while increased metabolism was found in the right medial temporal structures including amygdala and pons. In addition, a decrease in glucose metabolism in the fronto-temporo-parietal regions correlated with an increase in glucose metabolism in the right medial temporal regions across subjects.


There was considerable variability in the interval between the last ECT and FDG-PET scan. Depressed subjects were maintained on medication. The subjects included both major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder patients, as well as both ECT responders and non-responders.


Depression refractory to pharmacotherapy might have functional deficits in specific circumscribed frontal and temporal structures. ECT resolves the clinical symptoms without largely affecting these brain metabolic abnormalities. In contrast, ECT shifts the balance of corticolimbic function, which might explain how ECT ameliorates symptoms of depression in patients.

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