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Unilateral Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

My interest in unilateral ECT began in 1961-62, when I worked for a crazy psychiatrist who gave ECT to all his in-patients. Since I was the most junior doctor on the team, it was my job to administer the ECT on three mornings a week. Concerned about the effect this might have upon the patients' memory, I used to experiment with trying to find the lowest voltage of electricity for each patient. It was at that time that I heard a lecture on the use of unilateral ECT. At the next hospital I worked in, my consultant asked me if I had heard of it, and together, with one of the clinical psychologists, we planned and started a study. The project was stopped by a visiting research committee. Interestingly, at the next hospital, an experimental psychologist, Sheila Zinkin, who was interested in memory, proposed that we did a study together, and this time, a study was successfully completed.


Zinkin, S. & Birtchnell, J. (1968) Unilateral electroconvulsive therapy: Its effects on memory and its therapeutic efficacy. British Journal of Psychiatry, 114, 973‑988.