Electroconvulsive therapy machine, Baldock, Hertfordshire, 1954-1956
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was developed in Italy in 1938. ECT machines applied electric currents to the brain in timed pulses. This caused a convulsion or seizure. It was thought possible to 'shock' a patient out of a severe mental disorder. Early ECT machines were based on technologies used to stun animals. They were crude and difficult to control. There were significant advances in electronics during the Second World War. Machines such as this became commercially available after the war. This ECT machine was made by specialist company Ectron. It was designed to be easier to use and adjustable. The machine administered ‘half’ and ‘full’ power shocks via the scalp electrodes. It was produced in 1954, the same year as the first psychoactive drugs became available. Electroconvulsive therapy was and still is controversial. Psychoactive drugs became a competing and eventually dominant therapy in psychiatric care.
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Techniques and Technologies:
The passing of electric currents through the body's tissues to stimulate the functioning of nerves and the muscles.
A branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness.
Glossary: electroconvulsive therapy machine