Electroconvulsive therapy machine

The Edison and Swan Electric Light Company Limited

Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) machine made in the early 1940s by Edison Swan Co. Ltd. to the specifications of W Grey Walter and used at the Burden Neurological Institute. Designed to give an electrical stimulus from the AC mains supply at a voltage varying from 60 to 150 volts, for a short preset period of time of typically 0.2 seconds. Use of this machine was discontinued in the 1970s.

Serial no. SS35. Edison Swan labels appear to be apinted over. GRS stamped on one of the electrodes

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a controversial psychiatric treatment. It was developed in Italy in 1938. ECT machines transmit electric currents to the brain in timed pulses. This causes a massive convulsion or seizure. It was thought possible to ‘shock’ a patient out of a severe mental disorder.

This ECT machine may appear crude. However, it had a level of sophistication in that it was adjustable. It administered shocks ranging from 60-150 volts for a pre-set period of time, typically 0.2 seconds. The machine was produced in the 1940s. This was a few years before the first psychoactive drugs became available in 1953. Electroconvulsive therapy had always been controversial. Psychoactive drugs quickly became a competing therapy in psychiatric care. This ECT machine was used at Burden Neurological Institute until it was discontinued in the 1970s.

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Science Museum: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

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Psychology, Psychiatry & Anthropometry
Object Number:
metal and plastic
each electrode: 80 mm x 170 mm 12.345 kg
electroconvulsive therapy machine
The Burden Neurological Institute

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