Although seizures typically indicate a state of brain dysfunction, there are circumstances in which the biological effects of a seizure may exert therapeutic benefits. In this article, Dr. Justin Coffey of the Menninger Clinic and Baylor College of Medicine discusses the standard technique for inducing controlled therapeutic seizures in humans: electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a safe and remarkably effective treatment that involves the application of an electrical stimulus to the scalp of a patient under general anesthesia and muscle relaxation. ECT remains a cornerstone of treatment for severe mood disorders and certain other neuropsychiatric conditions, including those in patients with neurologic disorders. In addition, the neurobiological effects of ECT may have beneficial effects on a number of neurologic disorders, including Parkinson disease, epilepsy, and delirium. As with any procedure in medicine, the safety and efficacy of ECT depend critically on appropriate technique and proper patient selection and preparation.
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