Electrical stimulation of excitable tissue: design of efficacious and safe protocols

J Neurosci Methods. 2005 Feb 15;141(2):171-98. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2004.10.020.


The physical basis for electrical stimulation of excitable tissue, as used by electrophysiological researchers and clinicians in functional electrical stimulation, is presented with emphasis on the fundamental mechanisms of charge injection at the electrode/tissue interface. Faradaic and non-Faradaic charge transfer mechanisms are presented and contrasted. An electrical model of the electrode/tissue interface is given. The physical basis for the origin of electrode potentials is given. Various methods of controlling charge delivery during pulsing are presented. Electrochemical reversibility is discussed. Commonly used electrode materials and stimulation protocols are reviewed in terms of stimulation efficacy and safety. Principles of stimulation of excitable tissue are reviewed with emphasis on efficacy and safety. Mechanisms of damage to tissue and the electrode are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Engineering / methods
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Electrochemistry
  • Electrodes / supply & distribution
  • Electrolytes
  • Electrophysiology / methods*
  • Equipment Design*
  • Humans


  • Electrolytes