BACKGROUND Incorporating kilohertz-frequency signals in transcutaneous electrical stimulation has been proposed as a means to overcome the impedance of the skin, thereby reaching deeper nerves. In particular, a transdermal amplitude modulated signal (TAMS), composed of a 210 kHz non-zero offset carrier modulated by rectangular pulses, was introduced recently for the treatment of overactive bladder. However, the contribution of the components of TAMS to nerve fiber activation has not been quantified. METHODS We conducted in vivo experiments and applied direct stimulation to the sciatic nerve of cats and rats. We measured electromyogram and compound action potential activity evoked by pulses, TAMS and modified versions of TAMS in which we varied the size of the carrier. RESULTS Nerve fiber activation using TAMS showed no difference with respect to activation with conventional pulse for carrier frequencies of 20 kHz and higher, regardless the relative amplitude of the carrier. For frequencies lower than 20 kHz, the offset needed to generate half of the maximal evoked response decreased significantly with respect to the pulse. Results of simulations in a computational model of nerve fiber stimulation using the same stimulation waveforms closely matched our experimental measurements. CONCLUSION Taken together, these results suggest that a TAMS with carrier frequencies textgreater20 kHz does not offer any advantage over conventional pulses, even with larger amplitudes of the carrier, and this has implications for design of waveforms for efficient and effective transcutaneous stimulation.
Objective. Models of excitable cells consider the membrane specific capacitance as a ubiquitous and constant parameter. However, experimental measurements show that the membrane capacitance declines with increasing frequency, i.e., exhibits dispersion. We quantified the effects of frequency-dependent membrane capacitance, c(f), on the excitability of cells and nerve fibers across the frequency range from dc to hundreds of kilohertz. Approach. We implemented a model of c(f) using linear circuit elements, and incorporated it into several models of neurons with different channel kinetics: the Hodgkin–Huxley model of an unmyelinated axon, the McIntyre–Richardson–Grill (MRG) of a mammalian myelinated axon, and a model of a cortical neuron from prefrontal cortex (PFC).We calculated thresholds for excitation and kHz frequency conduction block, the conduction velocity, recovery cycle, strength–distance relationship and firing rate. Main results. The impact of c(f) on activation thresholds depended on the stimulation waveform and channel kinetics. We observed no effect using rectangular pulse stimulation, and a reduction for frequencies of 10 kHz and above using sinusoidal signals only for the MRG model. c(f) had minimal impact on the recovery cycle and the strength–distance relationship, whereas the conduction velocity increased by up to 7.9% and 1.7% for myelinated and unmyelinated fibers, respectively. Block thresholds declined moderately when incorporating c(f), the effect was greater at higher frequencies, and the maximum reduction was 11.5%. Finally, c(f) marginally altered the firing pattern of a model of a PFC cell, reducing the median interspike interval by less than 2%. Significance. This is the first comprehensive analysis of the effects of dispersive capacitance on neural excitability, and as the interest on stimulation with kHz signals gains more attention, it defines the regions over which frequency-dependent membrane capacitance, c(f), should be considered.
Artificial sensation via electrical or optical stimulation of brain sensory areas offers a promising treatment for sensory deficits. For a brain-machine-brain interface, such artificial sensation conveys feedback signals from a sensorized prosthetic limb. The ways neural tissue can be stimulated to evoke artificial sensation and the parameter space of such stimulation, however, remain largely unexplored. Here we investigated whether stochastic facilitation (SF) could enhance an artificial tactile sensation produced by intracortical microstimulation (ICMS). Two rhesus monkeys learned to use a virtual hand, which they moved with a joystick, to explore virtual objects on a computer screen. They sought an object associated with a particular artificial texture (AT) signaled by a periodic ICMS pattern delivered to the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) through a pair of implanted electrodes. During each behavioral trial, aperiodic ICMS (i.e., noise) of randomly chosen amplitude was delivered to S1 through another electrode pair implanted 1 mm away from the site of AT delivery. Whereas high-amplitude noise worsened AT detection, moderate noise clearly improved the detection of weak signals, significantly raising the proportion of correct trials. These findings suggest that SF could be used to enhance prosthetic sensation.