Asymmetric versus symmetric pulses for cortical microstimulation

IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2011 Oct;19(5):468-76. doi: 10.1109/TNSRE.2011.2166563. Epub 2011 Oct 3.


Intracortical microstimulation (ICMS), which has shown promise in the visual, auditory and somatosensory systems as a platform for sensory prostheses, typically relies on charged balanced, symmetric, biphasic stimulation. However, neural stimulation models as well as experiments conducted in cochlear implant users have suggested that charge balanced asymmetric pulses could generate lower detection thresholds for stimulation in terms of charge per phase. For this study, rats were chronically implanted with microelectrode arrays unilaterally in their right auditory cortex and then trained to detect ICMS delivered through a single electrode site in order to determine their behavioral threshold. This model was used in two experiments. The first experiment addressed the effect of lead phase direction, asymmetry, and phase duration on detection threshold. The second experiment fixed the cathode phase duration at 123 μs and varied only the phase asymmetry and lead phase direction. Taken together, the results of these experiments suggest that, for ICMS, the primary determinant of threshold level is cathode phase duration, and that asymmetry provides no significant advantage when compared to symmetric, cathode leading pulses. However, symmetric anode leading pulses of less than or equal to 205 μs per phase consistently showed higher thresholds when compared to all other pulses of equal cathode phase duration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Electrodes
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • User-Computer Interface