Differential heart rate response to magnetic seizure therapy (MST) relative to electroconvulsive therapy: A nonhuman primate model

Stefan B. Rowny, Yael M. Cycowicz, Shawn M. McClintock, Matthew D. Truesdale, Bruce Luber, Sarah H. Lisanby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an effective treatment for severe depression; however, the induced therapeutic seizure acts on the autonomic nervous system and results in significant cardiac effects. This is an important consideration particularly in the elderly. Magnetic seizure therapy (MST) is in development as a less invasive alternative, but its effects on cardiac function have not been studied. We sought to model those effects in nonhuman primates to inform the development of safer neurostimulation interventions. Twenty four rhesus monkeys were randomly assigned to receive 6 weeks of daily treatment with electroconvulsive stimulation (ECS), magnetic seizure therapy (MST) or anesthesia-alone sham. Digitally acquired ECG and an automated R-wave and inter-R interval (IRI) sampling were used to measure intervention effects on heart rate (HR). Significant differences between experimental conditions were found in the HR as evidenced by changes in the immediate post-stimulus, ictal and postictal epochs. Immediate post-stimulus bradycardia was seen with ECS but not with MST. ECS induced significantly more tachycardia than MST or sham in both the ictal and postictal periods. MST resulted in a small, but statistically significant increase in HR during the postictal period relative to baseline. HR was found to increase by 25% and 8% in the ECS and MST conditions, respectively. MST resulted in significantly less marked sympathetic and parasympathetic response than did ECS. This differential physiological response is consistent with MST having a more superficial cortical site of action with less impact on deeper brain structures implicated in cardiac control relative to ECT. The clinical relevance of the topographical seizure spread of MST and its associated effects on the autonomic nervous system remain to be determined in human clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1086-1091
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Arrhythmia
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Magnetic seizure therapy (MST)
  • Sympathetic outflow
  • Tachycardia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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