Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involves deliberately inducing a seizure by passing electricity through the brain. The technique was developed in 1938 by Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini, two Italian physicians who were seeking a treatment for schizophrenia. At the time, schizophrenia was erroneously thought to be rare among people who had epilepsy. This led to speculation that epileptic seizures somehow prevented the disorder. Cerletti and Bini were able to test this hypothesis when they discovered a means of inducing seizures. When visiting a slaughterhouse, they observed electric current being passed through the brains of animals. It produced a convulsion and unconsciousness. Shortly thereafter, the two physicians began to use a modified electroconvulsive technique as an experimental treatment for schizophrenia.
Oltmanns, T. F. & Emery, R. E. (2012). Abnormal psychology (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.