Fronto-medial electrode placement for electroconvulsive treatment of depression

J. Douglas Steele (Lead / Corresponding author), Tom Farnan, David M. Semple, Siwei Bai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the most effective treatment for severe treatment-resistant depression but concern about cognitive side-effects, particularly memory loss, limits its use. Recent observational studies on large groups of patients who have received ECT report that cognitive side-effects were associated with electric field (EF) induced increases in hippocampal volume, whereas therapeutic efficacy was associated with EF induced increases in sagittal brain structures. The aim in the present study was to determine whether a novel fronto-medial (FM) ECT electrode placement would minimize electric fields in bilateral hippocampi (HIP) whilst maximizing electric fields in dorsal sagittal cortical regions. An anatomically detailed computational head model was used with finite element analysis, to calculate ECT-induced electric fields in specific brain regions identified by translational neuroimaging studies of treatment-resistant depressive illness, for a range of electrode placements. As hypothesized, compared to traditional bitemporal (BT) electrode placement, a specific FM electrode placement reduced bilateral hippocampal electric fields two-to-three-fold, whilst the electric fields in the dorsal anterior cingulate (dAC) were increased by approximately the same amount. We highlight the clinical relevance of this specific FM electrode placement for ECT, which may significantly reduce cognitive and non-cognitive side-effects and suggest a clinical trial is indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1029683
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2022


  • ECT
  • cognitive side-effects
  • fronto-medial placement
  • electric fields
  • computational modeling
  • side-effects
  • depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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