Comparing the Effects of Four Types of Electroconvulsive Therapy on Mood and Thinking in People With Depression

This study has been completed.
Information provided by:
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Identifier:
First received: June 15, 2007
Last updated: NA
Last verified: June 2007
History: No changes posted

This study will compare four types of electroconvulsive therapy to determine if they differ in their effects on mood, thinking, brain activity, and biochemistry in people with major depressive disorder.

Condition Intervention Phase
Device: Right unilateral ECT at high dose
Device: Ultrabrief pulse width ECT
Device: Bilateral ECT at moderate dose
Behavioral: Traditional pulse width ECT
Phase 4

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Endpoint Classification: Efficacy Study
Intervention Model: Factorial Assignment
Masking: Double-Blind
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Affective and Cognitive Consequences of ECT

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Short-term antidepressant efficacy [ Time Frame: Measured immediately post-treatment and 2, 4, and 6 months post-treatment ]
  • Specific acute, short-term, and long-term objective and subjective cognitive outcome measures (e.g., autobiographical amnesia, global self-rating of amnesia) [ Time Frame: Measured immediately post-treatment and 2, 4, and 6 months post-treatment ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Antidepressant efficacy [ Time Frame: Measured immediately post-treatment and 2, 4, and 6 months post-treatment ]
  • Assessments of functional outcomes [ Time Frame: Measured immediately post-treatment and 2, 4, and 6 months post-treatment ]
  • Memory, non-memory, and executive functions (acute, short-term, and long-term measures) [ Time Frame: Measured immediately post-treatment and 2, 4, and 6 months post-treatment ]

Enrollment: 180
Study Start Date: December 1998
Estimated Study Completion Date: May 2005
Detailed Description:

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious condition that can interfere with a person’s ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy activities that were once pleasurable. Depression may occur only once in a lifetime, but usually occurs several times. There are several types of medications and therapies that have been successful in improving symptoms of depression. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been particularly successful in treating individuals whose depression is severe or life threatening or who cannot take antidepressant medication. In ECT, electrodes are placed at precise locations on the head to deliver electrical impulses. The stimulation causes a brief seizure within the brain. The person receiving ECT does not consciously experience the electrical stimulus and does not feel pain. This study will compare four types of ECT to determine if they differ in their effects on mood, thinking, brain activity, and biochemistry in people with MDD.

Participants in this double-blind study will be randomly assigned to receive one of four types of ECT. Treatments will occur three times a week for 2 to 6 weeks, depending on each participant’s individual needs. All participants will stop taking any psychiatric medications at least 5 days before receiving ECT. Before beginning each ECT session, participants will be interviewed by study staff about their current psychiatric condition, any psychological problems they have had, any history of psychological problems in their families, their medical history, and their attitudes about receiving ECT. A family member may also be asked to participate in some interviews. In addition, before each treatment, monitoring sensors will be placed on each participant’s head and other areas of the body and a blood pressure cuff will be placed on an arm. These devices will be used to monitor each participant’s brain waves, heart, and blood pressure before, during, and after treatment.

Because ECT entails the use of general anesthesia, participants will not eat for at least 8 hours before each treatment. An intravenous catheter will be placed in participants’ arms to administer the anesthesia and a muscle relaxant. Just before receiving ECT, participants will be asked to remember a set of information. Upon waking after treatment, participants will be asked to recall or recognize this material and complete a set of brief neuropsychological tasks. Electroencephalogram (EEG) tests (to measure electrical activity of the brain), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) (to measure muscle activity), blood collection, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests (to image the inside of the body) will be performed at selected sessions and follow-up visits to assess outcomes. Follow-up interviews will be held via telephone every 2 weeks for 2 months post-treatment, and then monthly for the remainder of the year. Follow-up neuropsychological tests will also be administered at Months 2, 4, and 6 post-treatment.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 90 Years
Genders Eligible for Study:   Both
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Diagnosis of major depressive disorder
  • Pretreatment score of at least 18 on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression
  • Able to tolerate psychotropic washout and no psychotropic medication, other than lorazepam (up to 3 mg/d PRN), during the study
  • Recommended to receive ECT

Exclusion Criteria:

  • History of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, other functional psychosis, or rapid cycling bipolar disorder
  • Secondary diagnosis of a delirium, dementia, or amnestic disorder, or epilepsy
  • Pregnant
  • History of neurological illness other than conditions associated with psychotropic exposure (e.g., tardive dyskinesia)
  • History of alcohol or substance abuse within the year prior to study entry
  • History of ECT within the 6 months prior to study entry
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00487500

United States, New York
New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York, New York, United States, 10032
Sponsors and Collaborators
Principal Investigator: Harold A. Sackeim, PhD New York State Psychiatric Institute
  More Information

Sackeim, H. A.: The convulsant and anticonvulsant properties of electroconvulsive therapy: towards a focal form of brain stimulation. Clinical Neuroscience Review, 2004, 4:39-57.

Additional publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number): Identifier: NCT00487500     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: R01 MH35636-05, DATR A5-ETSE
Study First Received: June 15, 2007
Last Updated: June 15, 2007
Health Authority: United States: Federal Government

Keywords provided by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):
Major Depressive Disorder
Electroconvulsive Therapy

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Depressive Disorder
Behavioral Symptoms
Mood Disorders
Mental Disorders processed this record on July 28, 2014