1938. Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini started the use of electroconvulsive therapy

Electroconvulsive treatment is a standard psychiatric treatment to induce seizures: it has substituted the use of drugs and other methods used as a treatment for depression and schizophrenia. Nowadays it is used as treatment for clinical depression that has not been solved with other methods and sometimes for mania and catatonia. There are three types of electroshock, different for electrode placement, frequency of treatments, electrical waveform: they have significant differences in effects and symptom remission. However, It could have some risks as memory loss and, in addition, people think that is a very painful operation: it is not true because the patient is completely anesthetized. Although, the mechanism by which it works is still a mystery.

Italian Professor of neuropsychiatry Ugo Cerletti, who had been using electric shocks to produce seizures in animal experiments, and his colleague Lucio Bini developed the idea of using electricity as a substitute for metrazol in convulsive therapy and, in 1937, experimented for the first time on a person. The idea to use electroshock on humans came to Cerletti when he saw how pigs were given an electric shock before being butchered to put them in an anesthetized state. Cerletti and Bini practiced until they felt they had the right parameters needed to have a successful human trial. Once they started trials on patients they found that after 10-20 treatments the results were significant. Patients had much improved.

A positive side effect to the treatment was retrograde amnesia. It was because of this side effect that patients could not remember the treatments and had no ill feelings toward it.

ECT soon replaced metrazol therapy all over the world because it was cheaper, less frightening and more convenient.Cerletti and Bini were nominated for a Nobel Prize but did not receive one. By 1940, the procedure was introduced to both England and the US. In Germany and Austria it was promoted by Friedrich Meggendorfer. Through the 1940s and 1950s, the use of ECT became widespread.

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Front row, from left to right: Mrs Adele Grombach, Ugo Cerletti, unknown, Francesco Bonfiglio, Gaetano Perusini. Back row, from left to right: Fritz Lotmar, unknown, Stefan Rosental, Allers, unknown, Alois Alzheimer, Nicolás Achucarro, Friedrich Heinrich Lewy.

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