April 10, 2012

Electroshock Therapy & Brain Damage

by Levin & Perconti

A debate has been raging over the past two weeks on the effect of ECT—electroconvulsive therapy—and the brain. On one hand, a wave of media reports were recently released which suggest that there may be a strong connection between use of the therapy of elimination of certain symptoms of depression. Our Illinois brain injury lawyers appreciate that treatment for the serious harm caused by depression is important. However, it is vital that that the potential negative consequences of the therapy be fully examined. A new story from the Huffington Post this week explores how the treatment may actually cause serious brain injuries.

What is ECT?

The therapy involves placing electrodes over both temples in order to overlap the brain’s frontal lobes. A surge of electricity is then given to the brain via the electrodes. The electricity hits the tip of the temporal lobes more strongly. This is the part of the brain that affects memory. In addition, the surge also hits parts of the frontal lobes in charge of high human functions. Our Chicago brain injury attorneys know that damage to this part of the brain may have severe consequences for those involved.

The author questioning the merits of ECT point to the actual study which spurred the recent surge in popularity of the treatment as evidence of the brain damaged caused. The research paper explains that the therapy essentially causes a “decrease in functional connectivity” between the frontal lobes and other parts of the brain. This is the part of the brain that affects one’s ability to be insightful, creative, and loving. The psychiatrist-author indicates that the effect of this “disconnectivity” is the same as that of a lasting frontal lobotomy.

How does this help depression?

Many suggest that depressive patients have an unnaturally high level of activity in the frontal lobes. Therefore, weakening the activity in this part of the brain may bring it “back to normal.” However, some psychiatrists are challenging the ultimately value of damaging parts of the brain as an apparent cure. Of particular concern is the fact that the word “damage” is not actually used when discussing the way that ECT works. However, MRIs taken of those given the treatment conclusively show that the damaging effect on the functionality of this part of the brain. In fact, follow-up studies show that the damaging effects do not go away over time.

Is it worth it?

Each Illinois brain injury attorney at our firm understands the complex functionality issues whenever brain damage is involved. It remains incredibly difficult to offer easy answers when it comes to determining if the damage caused by these “electrical lobotomies” are worth the potential benefit. The author summarizes by reminding readers that “apathy and indifference is the final result of all the most potent psychiatric treatments.” Residents or loved ones considering this form of damage-inducing treatment should at least be aware of the realities of the process before making the decision in their own case. At the end of the day, the treatment may be the best option. But as will all medical procedures, there is no harm in being fully appraised of the process and potential complications.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

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