Introduction: Continuation electroconvulsive therapy (c-ECT) is highly effective for the prevention of depressive symptom relapse. There is a lack of understanding, about how c-ECT works in humans, particularly with regard to its effects on brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) concentrations. Here, we aimed to close a gap in the literature by evaluating BDNF levels in patients receiving c-ECT. Methods: We included 13 patients with either unipolar or bipolar depression (mean age ± SD: 55.5 ± 17.1; f/m: 10/3; unipolar/bipolar: 10/3) who received between one and four c-ECT (average per patient: 2.8). Serum BDNF (sBDNF) levels were assessed before and after each c-ECT sessions. Clinical assessments were also administered both before and after treatment. Results: Our analysis revealed a significant increase in sBDNF after each treatment (c-ECT 1-3: P < 0.001, c-ECT 4: P = 0.018). The application of multiple c-ECT treatments was not, however, associated with further sBDNF enhancements. Psychometric scores were not significantly altered following c-ECT. Discussion: An increase in sBDNF concentrations subsequent to c-ECT parallel data from the animal literature, which has linked regularly applied electrical stimulation to neuroplastic processes. This finding suggests a relationship between ECT-induced sBDNF concentrations and (sustained) remission status, considering a stable clinical condition across c-ECT.
- brain-derived neurotrophic factor
- continuation electroconvulsive therapy
- unipolar and bipolar affective disorder
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health