Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest: Patient and Public Attitudes about Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions

Laura Y. Cabrera, Maryssa M.C. Gilbert, Aaron M. McCright, Eric D. Achtyes, Robyn Bluhm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recent research emphasizes the role of psychiatric electroceutical interventions (PEIs), bioelectronic treatments that employ electrical stimulation to affect and modify brain function, to effectively treat psychiatric disorders. We sought to examine attitudes about three PEIs—electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and deep brain stimulation—among patients with depression and members of the general public. As part of a larger study to assess different stakeholders’ attitudes about PEIs, we conducted semi-structured key informant interviews with 16 individuals living with depression and 16 non-depressive members of the general public. We used a purposive sampling approach to recruit potential participants based on eligibility criteria. We performed qualitative content analysis of interview transcripts. Participants from both groups expressed an overall cautionary attitude towards PEIs, yet there were mixed attitudes in both groups. Patients commonly described electroconvulsive therapy as scary, traumatic, or intense, while members of the general public often referenced the treatment’s negative portrayal in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Patients and the general public saw transcranial magnetic stimulation as a potentially viable option, but in most cases only if medication was not effective. Deep brain stimulation attitudes were predominantly negative among patients and cautionary among public. The overall cautionary attitudes towards PEIs, together with the technological features and social aspects underlying those attitudes, highlight the need for unbiased education to fill the gaps in knowledge and inform perceptions of those who may benefit from these treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1425-1438
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatric Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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