Background Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is one of the most effective treatments for depression, although the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Animal studies have shown that electroconvulsive shock induced neuroplastic changes in the hippocampus. Aims To summarise volumetric magnetic resonance imaging studies investigating the effects of ECT on limbic brain structures. Method A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to assess volumetric changes of each side of the hippocampus and amygdala before and after ECT. Standardised mean difference (SMD) was calculated. Results A total of 8 studies (n = 193) were selected for our analyses. Both right and left hippocampal and amygdala volumes increased after ECT. Meta-regression analyses revealed that age, percentage of those responding and percentage of those in remission were negatively associated with volume increases in the left hippocampus. Conclusions ECT increased brain volume in the limbic structures. The clinical relevance of volume increase needs further investigation.
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