Transcutaneous electrical stimulation is applied in a range of biomedical applications including transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). tDCS is a non-invasive procedure where a weak direct current (<2 mA) is applied across the scalp to modulate brain function. High-definition tDCS (HD-tDCS) is a technique used to increase the spatial focality of tDCS by passing current across the scalp using <12 mm diameter electrodes. The purpose of this study was to design and optimize "high-definition" electrode-gel parameters for electrode durability, skin safety and subjective pain. Anode and cathode electrode potential, temperature, pH and subjective sensation over time were assessed during application of 2 mA direct current, for up to 22 min on agar gel or subject forearms. A selection of five types of solid-conductors (Ag pellet, Ag/AgCl pellet, rubber pellet, Ag/AgCl ring and Ag/AgCl disc) and seven conductive gels (Signa, Spectra, Tensive, Redux, BioGel, Lectron and CCNY-4) were investigated. The Ag/AgCl ring in combination with CCNY-4 gel resulted in the most favorable outcomes. Under anode stimulations, electrode potential and temperature rises were generally observed in all electrode-gel combinations except for Ag/AgCl ring and disc electrodes. pH remained constant for all solid-conductors except for both Ag and rubber pellet electrodes with Signa and CCNY-4 gels. Sensation ratings were independent of stimulation polarity. Ag/AgCl ring electrodes were found to be the most comfortable followed by Ag, rubber and Ag/AgCl pellet electrodes across all gels.
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