Effects of acute and repeated electroconvulsive seizures (ECS) on amine metabolism in the rat brain were studied. Acute ECS increased the rate of disappearance of intracisternally injected [3H]norepinephrine (NE) and its conversion to [3H]normetanephrine as well as the disappearance of endogenous serotonin (5HT) and appearance of its major metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5HIAA).
One day following a week of 14 ECS treatments, there was a small (<20%) increase in the rate of efflux of [3H]NE, which had disappeared by day 3. Increased turnover of 5HT was also found one day following a week of ECS, but this was no greater than occurred after the stress of handling alone. There were no changes in the levels of histamine after acute or repeated ECS. It seems unlikely that these effects bear an important relationship to the mechanisms of action of clinical ECT as used in the treatment of depression in patients.