Activated iridium microelectrodes were implanted for 450-1282 days in the sensorimotor cortex of seven adult domestic cats and then pulsed for 240 h (8 h per day for 30 days) at 50 Hz. Continuous stimulation at 2 nC/phase and with a geometric charge density of 100 microC cm(-2) produced no detectable change in neuronal density in the tissue surrounding the microelectrode tips. However, pulsing with a continuous 100% duty cycle at 4 nC/phase and with a geometric charge density of 200 microC cm(-2) induced loss of cortical neurons over a radius of at least 150 microm from the electrode tips. The same stimulus regimen but with a duty cycle of 50% (1 s of stimulation, and then 1 s without stimulation repeated for 8 h) produced neuronal loss within a smaller radius, approximately 60 microm from the center of the electrode tips. However, there also was significant loss of neurons surrounding the unpulsed electrodes, presumably as a result of mechanical injury due to their insertion into and long-term residence in the tissue, and this was responsible for most of the neuronal loss within 150 microm of the electrodes pulsed with the 50% duty cycle.