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New Developments in Electroconvulsive Therapy and Magnetic Seizure Therapy

  • Sarah H. Lisanby, Oscar Morales, Nancy Payne, Edward Kwon, Linda Fitzsimons, Bruce Luber, Mitchell S. Nobler and Harold A. Sackeim...


New findings regarding the mechanisms of action of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) have led to novel developments in treatment technique to further improve this highly effective treatment for major depression. These new approaches include novel electrode placements, optimization of electrical stimulus parameters, and new methods for inducing more targeted seizures (eg, magnetic seizure therapy [MST]). MST is the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation to induce a seizure. Magnetic fields pass through tissue unimpeded, providing more control over the site and extent of stimulation than can be achieved with ECT. This enhanced control represents a means of focusing the treatment on target cortical structures thought to be essential to antidepressant response and reducing spread to medial temporal regions implicated in the cognitive side effects of ECT. MST is at an early stage of development. Preliminary results suggest that MST may have some advantages over ECT in terms of subjective side effects and acute cognitive functioning. Studies designed to address the antidepressant efficacy of MST are underway. As with all attempts to improve convulsive therapy technique, the clinical value of MST will need to be established through controlled clinical trials. This article reviews the experience to date with MST, and places this work in the broader context of other means of optimizing convulsive therapy in the treatment of depression.


Corresponding author

Please direct all correspondence to: Sarah H. Lisanby, MD, Magnetic Brain Stimulation Laboratory, Department of Biological Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Dr., Unit 126, New York, NY 10032. Tel: 212-543-5568, Fax: 212-543-6056; E-mail:


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