Spinal mechanisms of te analgesic action of electroconvulsive shock

Gideon Urca*, Ayelet Nof-Reshef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study investigated the spinal systems involved in the analgesic action of electroconvulsive shock (ECS). To identify such systems complete spinal transections and discrete lesions within the dorsal half of the spinal cord were performed. Complete spinal transection eliminated ECS analgesia totally, demonstrating that the observed analgesic effect is attributable to neural conduction. Lesions within the region of the dorsolateral funiculus (DLF) caused a pronounced, but incomplete, attenuation of ECS analgesia. Larger lesions of the dorsal aspects of the spinal cord including both the DLF and the dorsal column area did not result in further attenuation of analgesia. Thus, it appears that within the dorsal cord the area of the DLF contains the fibers mediating the antinociceptive action of ECS. Additional experiments were conducted to determine the neuromediators involved in ECS analgesia. Of a wide range of antagonists injected intraperitoneally (methysergide, phentolamine, haloperidol, diphenhydramine, naloxone, picrotoxin, theophylline and scopolamine), only methysergide produced a significant attenuation of ECS analgesia. In contrast, following intrathecal injections of antagonists a dose-related decrease of analgesia could be seen after the injection of methysergide, phentolamine and naloxone implicating spinal serotonin, noradrenaline and the enkephalins in the analgesic action of ECS. To assess further the interaction between the action of these neurotransmitter systems, we evaluated the effect of drug pair combinations on ECS analgesia. Intrathecal phentolamine + naloxone, methysergide + naloxone and methysergide + phentolamine were injected at doses that caused maximal attenuation of analgesia. Injections of drug combinations did not result in further attenuation of ECS analgesia. It appears that the analgesic action of ECS is mediated via systems descending within the spinal cord. The main contribution to the analgesic action of ECS is from fibers coursing within the DLF, although contribution of neural systems within the ventral spinal cord also exists. These descending analgesia systems appear to utilize serotonin, noradrenaline and endogenous opioids as neurotransmitters. Additional systems the pharmacological nature of which is still undetermined also exist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-118
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 19 Aug 1985


  • analgesia
  • dorsolateral funiculus
  • electroconvulsive shock
  • monoamines
  • spinal cord


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