Biophysically realistic neuron models for simulation of cortical stimulation

J Neural Eng. 2018 Dec;15(6):066023. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/aadbb1. Epub 2018 Aug 21.


Objective: We implemented computational models of human and rat cortical neurons for simulating the neural response to cortical stimulation with electromagnetic fields.

Approach: We adapted model neurons from the library of Blue Brain models to reflect biophysical and geometric properties of both adult rat and human cortical neurons and coupled the model neurons to exogenous electric fields (E-fields). The models included 3D reconstructed axonal and dendritic arbors, experimentally-validated electrophysiological behaviors, and multiple, morphological variants within cell types. Using these models, we characterized the single-cell responses to intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) and uniform E-field with dc as well as pulsed currents.

Main results: The strength-duration and current-distance characteristics of the model neurons to ICMS agreed with published experimental results, as did the subthreshold polarization of cell bodies and axon terminals by uniform dc E-fields. For all forms of stimulation, the lowest threshold elements were terminals of the axon collaterals, and the dependence of threshold and polarization on spatial and temporal stimulation parameters was strongly affected by morphological features of the axonal arbor, including myelination, diameter, and branching.

Significance: These results provide key insights into the mechanisms of cortical stimulation. The presented models can be used to study various cortical stimulation modalities while incorporating detailed spatial and temporal features of the applied E-field.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Biophysics*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • Myelin Sheath / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Rats