Cerebral blood flow modulation by transcutaneous cranial electrical stimulation with Limoge's current

J Neuroradiol. 2012 Jul;39(3):167-75. doi: 10.1016/j.neurad.2011.06.001. Epub 2011 Aug 10.


Objectives: Transcutaneous cranial electrical stimulation (TCES) delivers a high-frequency (166 kHz) pulsed biphasic balanced current with a pulse repetition frequency of 100 Hz with 40% duty cycle through a negative electrode and two positive electrodes over the skull. TCES has a proven ability to potentiate anesthesia and analgesia, although the physiological mechanisms of this effect remain unclear. We hypothesized that the mechanism is a modulation of CBF in the central endogenous opioid system. This study aimed at determining the effects of TCES on CBF to elucidate its physiological mechanism.

Methods: Thirty-six healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to active or placebo TCES, and all assessments were double blind. TCES was performed using the Anesthelec™ device. In the stimulated group, an active cable was used, and in the control group (sham), the cable was inactive. CBF was measured by XeCT™ before and after two hours of TCES.

Results: Globally, CBF was unchanged by TCES. However, locally, TCES induced a significant CBF decrease in the brainstem and thalamus, which are structures involved in pain and anxiety (TCES and control CBF decrease were 18.5 and 11.9 mL/100g brain tissue/min, respectively).

Conclusion: TCES can modulate local CBF but it has no effect on overall CBF. [Clinical Trials. gov number: NCT00273663].

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Blood Flow Velocity / radiation effects
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Brain Stem / radiation effects
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • Thalamus / radiation effects
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00273663