Electrochemical activation and inhibition of neuromuscular systems through modulation of ion concentrations with ion-selective membranes

Nat Mater. 2011 Oct 23;10(12):980-6. doi: 10.1038/nmat3146.


Conventional functional electrical stimulation aims to restore functional motor activity of patients with disabilities resulting from spinal cord injury or neurological disorders. However, intervention with functional electrical stimulation in neurological diseases lacks an effective implantable method that suppresses unwanted nerve signals. We have developed an electrochemical method to activate and inhibit a nerve by electrically modulating ion concentrations in situ along the nerve. Using ion-selective membranes to achieve different excitability states of the nerve, we observe either a reduction of the electrical threshold for stimulation by up to approximately 40%, or voluntary, reversible inhibition of nerve signal propagation. This low-threshold electrochemical stimulation method is applicable in current implantable neuroprosthetic devices, whereas the on-demand nerve-blocking mechanism could offer effective clinical intervention in disease states caused by uncontrolled nerve activation, such as epilepsy and chronic pain syndromes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / instrumentation
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Ion-Selective Electrodes
  • Ions / chemistry*
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Rana catesbeiana
  • Sciatic Nerve / physiology*


  • Ions
  • Membranes, Artificial