Background: Cuff electrodes have been widely used chronically in different clinical applications. This neural interface has been dominantly used for nerve stimulation while interfering noise is the major issue when employed for recording purposes. Advancements have been made in rejecting extra-neural interference by using continuous ring contacts in tripolar topologies. Ring contacts provide an average of the neural activity, and thus reduce the information retrieved. Splitting these contacts into smaller recording areas could potentially increase the information content. In this study, we investigate the impact of such discretization on the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR). The effect of contacts positioning and an additional short circuited pair of electrodes were also addressed.
Methods: Different recording configurations using ring, dot, and a mixed of both contacts were studied in vitro in a frog model. An interfering signal was induced in the medium to simulate myoelectric noise. The experimental setup was design in such a way that the only difference between recordings was the configuration used. The inter-session experimental differences were taken care of by a common configuration that allowed normalization between electrode designs.
Results: It was found that splitting all contacts into small recording areas had negative effects on noise rejection. However, if this is only applied to the central contact creating a mixed tripole configuration, a considerable and statistically significant improvement was observed. Moreover, the signal to noise ratio was equal or larger than what can be achieved with the best known configuration, namely the short circuited tripole. This suggests that for recording purposes, any tripole topology would benefit from splitting the central contact into one or more discrete contacts.
Conclusions: Our results showed that a mixed tripole configuration performs better than the configuration including only ring contacts. Therefore, splitting the central ring contact of a cuff electrode into a number of dot contacts not only provides additional information but also an improved SNR. In addition, the effect of an additional pair of short circuited electrodes and the "end effect" observed with the presented method are in line with previous findings by other authors.