Severe mental illnesses often remain chronic and refractory to medication, leading to substantial morbidity and mortality. For more than 60 years, electroconvulsive therapy has been the only nonpharmacological psychiatric procedure available to treat severe or medication-refractory major depressive disorder and other psychiatric conditions. Memory dysfunction remains the most serious adverse effect, and current research focuses on attempts to ameliorate this complication. Transcranial magnetic stimulation and vagus nerve stimulation, 2 new neuropsychiatric technologies, are emerging as possible additions to our therapeutic armamentarium. Besides providing therapeutic benefits, these 3 methods may help elucidate the pathophysiology of psychiatric illness.
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