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Electroconvulsive therapy was investigated in a double blind trial. Altogether 186 clinically selected patients were referred to the trial, but 48 of these did not participate. According to the present state examination, 95 of the remaining 138 patients fell into one of the classes of major depression. Patients were randomly allocated to a course of real or simulated electroconvulsive therapy. Treatment was given twice a week with a maximum of eight treatments. On the Hamilton depressive rating scale the improvement in the group given real treatment was significantly greater than that in the group given simulated treatment both at two weeks (p = 0.014) and at four weeks (p = 0.0001). At follow up at 12 and 28 weeks there was no difference between the treatment groups. At the end of the four week trial consultants, who were blind to the allocation of treatment, rated the patients who had received real treatment as having made a significantly greater improvement than the patients who had received simulated treatment (p less than 0.00005). Further analysis showed that electroconvulsive therapy was effective in depression associated with delusions and in depression associated with retardation.