By Attia, A.; Buisson. G. (ed.)
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Shortly after the first patient had been given ECT, Cerletti convened his assistants and gave them assignments. He wanted to work up a scientific dossier on the mechanism, technique, and side effects of the new treatment and asked each one to undertake an investigation: this one was to study changes in the fundus of the eyeball in ECT, that one to study blood chemistry. For lack of funds, they did not have what would have been the most useful investigative aid of all—an electroencephalograph (EEG) to record patterns of the brain’s electrical activity before, during, and after ECT treatments.
They developed their own jargon for giving a stimulus (zapare) and for describing patients who were “poorly zapped” (mal zapato). The results of these early trials were published in 1940 in a special issue of the Rivista Sperimentale di Freniatria (Italy’s Journal of Experimental Psychiatry) that was immediately reissued as a book. Because of the war, however, few copies of the journal reached readers outside of Europe, and great uncertainty prevailed abroad about exactly how the procedure should be conducted.
In 1950, he told the Paris World Psychiatry Congress that he had initially conceived his procedure as a convulsive therapy but then realized that convulsions were damaging to the brain, making the illness worse, and that the procedure was in fact a coma therapy. ) “My official proposal to employ such dramatic shocks with convulsions as a therapy was [in 1933] immediately widely and sensationally publicized in the daily press at home and abroad. ” On the basis of this supposed switch in his theoretical position, Sakel was able to argue that Meduna had stolen from him the idea of convulsive therapy, but that Meduna’s convulsive therapy was harmful.