Influence of electroconvulsive therapy on white matter structure in a diffusion tensor imaging study

Jonathan Repple, Susanne Meinert, Irene Bollettini, Dominik Grotegerd, Ronny Redlich, Dario Zaremba, Christian Bürger, Katharina Förster, Katharina Dohm, Felix Stahl, Nils Opel, Tim Hahn, Verena Enneking, Elisabeth J. Leehr, Joscha Böhnlein, Ramona Leenings, Claas Kaehler, Daniel Emden, Nils R. Winter, Walter HeindelHarald Kugel, Jochen Bauer, Volker Arolt, Francesco Benedetti, Udo Dannlowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a fast-acting intervention for major depressive disorder. Previous studies indicated neurotrophic effects following ECT that might contribute to changes in white matter brain structure. We investigated the influence of ECT in a non-randomized prospective study focusing on white matter changes over time.Methods Twenty-nine severely depressed patients receiving ECT in addition to inpatient treatment, 69 severely depressed patients with inpatient treatment (NON-ECT) and 52 healthy controls (HC) took part in a non-randomized prospective study. Participants were scanned twice, approximately 6 weeks apart, using diffusion tensor imaging, applying tract-based spatial statistics. Additional correlational analyses were conducted in the ECT subsample to investigate the effects of seizure duration and therapeutic response.Results Mean diffusivity (MD) increased after ECT in the right hemisphere, which was an ECT-group-specific effect. Seizure duration was associated with decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) following ECT. Longitudinal changes in ECT were not associated with therapy response. However, within the ECT group only, baseline FA was positively and MD negatively associated with post-ECT symptomatology.Conclusion Our data suggest that ECT changes white matter integrity, possibly reflecting increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier, resulting in disturbed communication of fibers. Further, baseline diffusion metrics were associated with therapy response. Coherent fiber structure could be a prerequisite for a generalized seizure and inhibitory brain signaling necessary to successfully inhibit increased seizure activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-856
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Biomarker
  • Depression
  • Dti
  • Ect
  • Fa
  • Md

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of electroconvulsive therapy on white matter structure in a diffusion tensor imaging study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this