“… one participant (ECT) fell asleep during the fMRI scan”
The scans were being conducted by Kamilla Miskowiak and colleagues in Copenhagen, Denmark (Neural response after a single ECT session during retrieval of emotional self-referent words in depression: a randomized, sham-controlled fMRI study, International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology).
People who had been prescribed electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) were randomised, for their first treatment only, to either ECT or sham ECT (the anaesthetic, etc., without the actual electric shock). The next day the researchers carried out fMRI scans on them. The researchers found that:
“A single ECT session had no effect on hippocampal activity during retrieval of emotional words. However, ECT reduced the retrieval-specific neural response for positive words in the left frontopolar cortex. This effect occurred in the absence of differences between groups in behavioral performance or mood symptoms.”
The researchers also got another article out of the same experiment, this time in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, September 2017 (Does a single session of electroconvulsive therapy alter the neural response to emotional faces in depression? A randomised sham-controlled functional magnetic resonance imaging study.) They concluded:
“Despite no statistically significant shift in neural response to faces after a single electroconvulsive therapy session, the observed trend changes after a single electroconvulsive therapy session point to an early shift in emotional processing that may contribute to antidepressant effects of electroconvulsive therapy.”
This time the researchers suggested the antidepressant effect was mediated by a “lower fear vigilance”. All the ECT group managed to stay awake for this part of the experiment.