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Brain and Mental Performance

Electroconvulsive therapy boosts brain growth

14 years ago

2044  0
Posted on Sep 16, 2005, 11 a.m. By Bill Freeman

Animal studies have provided evidence for the theory that electroconvulsive therapy boosts growth of nerve cells and blood vessels in parts of the brain affected in people with depression. The findings are presented in a dissertation by Lund University researcher Johan Hellsten, who says they "are the first in the world to show increased production of blood vessels in connection with anti-depressive treatment."

Animal studies have provided evidence for the theory that electroconvulsive therapy boosts growth of nerve cells and blood vessels in parts of the brain affected in people with depression.

The findings are presented in a dissertation by Lund University researcher Johan Hellsten, who says they "are the first in the world to show increased production of blood vessels in connection with anti-depressive treatment."

A news release describes the research:

For several years, Johan Hellsten, under the direction of the psychiatrist Anders Tingström at the Lund University Wallenberg Neurocenter, has studied electroconvulsive therapy in experiments with rats. On the one hand, he has shown that rats exposed to stress hormones evince a reduction in the generation of new nerve cells and, on the other hand, that electroconvulsive therapy can counteract the negative effects of the stress hormone and re-initiate the generation of new nerve cells. Electroconvulsive therapy also increases the production of blood vessel cells (endothelial cells) and the number of blood vessels in the relevant parts of the brain...

Better blood supply to those parts of the brain that are most affected by a depression should be beneficial to the patient, according to the Lund researchers. It should thereby be possible to counteract the shrinkage caused by depression. The blood-vessel forming endothelial cells also have other functions that can be useful: they secrete growth factors that promote the growth of nerve cells, for example.

Studies showing the positive effects of electroconvulsive therapy could lead to a greater use of the method, says Hellsten, and help in the development of new, more effective anti-depressive drugs.



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