Ugo Cerletti

Ugo Cerletti

Italian neurologist
Date of Birth: 26.09.1877
Country: Italy

Biography of Ugo Cerletti

Ugo Cerletti, an Italian neurologist, was born in Conegliano, Veneto, Italy. He studied medicine in Rome and Turin, specializing in histology and histopathology. Cerletti's research focused on how nervous tissues react to various harmful signals, contributing to the development of histopathology as an independent branch of medicine. He received training from renowned medical experts such as Pierre Marie, Alois Alzheimer, and Emil Kraepelin during his time as a student. Cerletti later became the head of the neurobiology faculty at an institute in Milan and the director of the Neurobiology Institute at the Psychiatric Hospital of Milan from 1919 to 1924. In 1924, he moved to Bari, and in 1928, he was appointed to the University of Genoa. In 1935, he became the dean of La Sapienza in Rome, where he invented electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Cerletti was inspired by observing the use of electric shocks in stunning animals at a slaughterhouse, contemplating its potential application for psychiatric patients, particularly schizophrenics. Although later research proved that epilepsy and schizophrenia were not related, Cerletti's ideas were still considered valuable. In April 1938, Cerletti conducted the first ECT session on a human, successfully returning a schizophrenic patient to a normal state. This new technique quickly replaced previously popular methods such as insulin and metrazol and was recognized as an effective treatment for excessively agitated patients. Cerletti continued studying and analyzing the usefulness of ECT for various mental disorders, providing valuable insights for many psychiatrists of the time. He hypothesized that electric shocks stimulated the brain to produce substances that restored mental health, experimenting by injecting patients with extracts from the brains of electrically shocked pigs and obtaining interesting results. Although "pig-brain therapy" did not gain much popularity, ECT is still widely used today for treating severe depression, mania, and catatonic stupor. Cerletti and his assistant, Lucio Bini, were even nominated for the Nobel Prize for their research on ECT. In addition to his notable contributions to neurology, Cerletti also proposed the use of white camouflage uniforms for alpine troops during World War I. Ugo Cerletti passed away in Rome on July 25, 1963, at the age of 85.

Ugo Cerletti

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