Background: Major depression has traditionally been regarded as a neurochemical disease, but findings of a decreased hippocampal volume in patients with depression have turned the pathophysiological focus toward impairments in structural plasticity. The mechanisms of action of the most effective antidepressive treatment, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), still remains elusive, but recent animal research has provided evidence for a cell proliferative effect in the hippocampus. The aim of this prospective study was to determine if hippocampal volume changes after ECT in patients with depression.
Methods: Twelve patients with depression and ongoing antidepressive pharmacological treatment were investigated with clinical ratings and 3 T magnetic resonance imaging within 1 week before and after the ECT series. Each hippocampus was manually outlined on coronal slices, and the volume was calculated.
Results: The left as well as the right hippocampal volume increased significantly after ECT.
Conclusions: The hippocampal volume increases after ECT, supporting the hypothesis that hippocampus may play a central role in the treatment of depression.