The effects of electrical microstimulation on cortical signal propagation

Nat Neurosci. 2010 Oct;13(10):1283-91. doi: 10.1038/nn.2631. Epub 2010 Sep 5.


Electrical stimulation has been used in animals and humans to study potential causal links between neural activity and specific cognitive functions. Recently, it has found increasing use in electrotherapy and neural prostheses. However, the manner in which electrical stimulation-elicited signals propagate in brain tissues remains unclear. We used combined electrostimulation, neurophysiology, microinjection and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the cortical activity patterns elicited during stimulation of cortical afferents in monkeys. We found that stimulation of a site in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) increased the fMRI signal in the regions of primary visual cortex (V1) that received input from that site, but suppressed it in the retinotopically matched regions of extrastriate cortex. Consistent with previous observations, intracranial recordings indicated that a short excitatory response occurring immediately after a stimulation pulse was followed by a long-lasting inhibition. Following microinjections of GABA antagonists in V1, LGN stimulation induced positive fMRI signals in all of the cortical areas. Taken together, our findings suggest that electrical stimulation disrupts cortico-cortical signal propagation by silencing the output of any neocortical area whose afferents are electrically stimulated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Anesthetics / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Bicuculline / analogs & derivatives
  • Bicuculline / pharmacology
  • Biophysical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation / methods*
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / blood supply
  • Visual Pathways / physiology


  • Anesthetics
  • GABA Antagonists
  • bicuculline methiodide
  • Oxygen
  • Bicuculline