The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Electric Current Used in Electroshock Therapy

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"Electroconvulsive therapy." The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. 3rd ed. England: Penguin Books, 2001. "The technique consists of applying a weak electric currrent (20-30 mA) bilaterally to the temperofrontal region of the skull until a grand mal seizure results." 0.02–0.03 A
Fink, Max. Electroshock: Restoring the Mind. New York: Oxford, 1999. "Modern electroshock uses a square-wave form of energy, which has a slight, if any, effect on memory. The frequency of the square waves varies from 30 to 70 cycles per second, with a pulse width of 0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 milliseconds. The duration of stimulation varies between 0.2 and 8.0 seconds, and delivers from 25-500 millicoulombs of energy." 0.0625–0.125 A
R. Breggin, Peter. Electroshock: Its Brain Disabling Effects. USA: Springer Publishing Company, 1979. "The amount of current varies widely from machine to machine and from clinician to clinician (Davies et al. 1971). Kalinowsky (1957b) described a range of 70 to 130 volts (V) for 0.1 to 0.5 sec, with a delivered current varying from 200 to 1600 milliamperes (mA)." 0.2–1.6 A
Collins, Meghan. "ECT: Electroconvulsive Therapy." 30 September 2002. "An AC current is passed up to 6 seconds. The current ranges from 800 mA–1000 mA, carrying a voltage between 300-500 volts." 0.8–1.0 A
Stevens, Lawrence. Psychiatry's Electroconvulsive Shock Treatment: A Crime Against Humanity. The Antipsychiatry Coalition. "ECT consists of electricity being passed through the brain with a force of from 70 to 400 volts and an amperage of from 200 milliamperes to 1.6 amperes (1600 milliamperes)." 0.2–1.6 A

Electroshock therapy, commonly known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a medical procedure for severe mental illnesses such as mania or schizophrenia. During the actual procedure, electrodes are put on the sides of the patient's head at the temples. An alternating electrical current is sent through the brain. It lasts for a few seconds. In electroshock therapy the patient requires the least amount of electricity to induce a mild seizure.

This procedure is very controversial because it may cause severe brain damage and memory loss. It is not used very much today. There are many risks in running an electric current through a person's brain including brain damage, disturbances in the heart and even death.

The electric current varies from patient to patient and machine to machine. In one source the electric current was as high as 0.8–1.0 amperes. This could be more than enough to kill a human if it were applied across the chest. Since it's applied through the brain it is less fatal. In the rest of the sources the electric current was fairly low ranging from 0.02 amperes to 0.125 amperes. The highest amount of electrical current found in one source was 1.6 amperes.

This electric current should be very little. Only enough so that the patient can be relieved of their illness. The current is meant to only slightly shock the patient's brain.

Marie Yacoub -- 2004