Electric field strength induced by electroconvulsive therapy is associated with clinical outcome

Egill Axfjord Fridgeirsson, Zhi-De Deng, Damiaan Denys, Jeroen A van Waarde, Guido A van Wingen

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The clinical effect of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is mediated by eliciting a generalized seizure, which is achieved by applying electrical current to the head via scalp electrodes. The anatomy of the head influences the distribution of current flow in each brain region. Here, we investigated whether individual differences in simulated local electrical field strength are associated with ECT efficacy. We modeled the electric field of 67 depressed patients receiving ECT. Patient's T1 magnetic resonance images were segmented, conductivities were assigned to each tissue and the finite element method was used to solve for the electric field induced by the electrodes. We investigated the correlation between modelled electric field and ECT outcome using voxel-wise general linear models. The difference between bilateral (BL) and right unilateral (RUL) electrode placement was striking. Even within electrode configuration, there was substantial variability between patients. For the modeled BL placement, stronger electric field strengths appeared in the left hemisphere and part of the right temporal lobe. Importantly, a stronger electric field in the temporal lobes was associated with less optimal ECT response in patients treated with BL-ECT. No significant differences in electric field distributions were found between responders and non-responders to RUL-ECT. These results suggest that overstimulation of the temporal lobes during BL stimulation has negative consequences on treatment outcome. If replicated, individualized pre-ECT computer-modelled electric field distributions may inform the development of patient-specific ECT protocols.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102581
JournalNeuroimage. Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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