How has electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) evolved over time?

Updated: Sep 24, 2019
  • Author: Mehul V Mankad, MD; Chief Editor: Dennis M Popeo, MD  more...
  • Print


In 1934, the Hungarian neuropathologist Ladislas Joseph von Meduna began the modern era of convulsive therapy by using intramuscular injection of camphor and pentylenetetrazol to treat catatonic schizophrenia. This approach was dubbed chemical convulsive therapy (CCT). [7]  In 1938, Italian psychiatrist Lucio Bini and neurologist Ugo Cerletti performed the first electrical induction of seizures in a catatonic patient and produced a successful treatment response. Their electrical stimulation of the ictal response was more reliable than chemical stimulation. Initially the approach was given a variety of names, but the term electroconvulsive therapy was eventually identified as the leading nomenclature. Lothar Kalinowsky, one of Cerletti's assistants, left Italy in 1939 and performed the first ECT in the United States in 1940. [8]

In 1978, the APA published the first Task Force Report on ECT, with the goal of establishing standards for consent and the technical and clinical aspects of the conduct of ECT. [9]  In 1985, the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Mental Health Consensus Conference on ECT endorsed a role for the use of ECT and advocated research and national standards of practice. [10]

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!