Fascicle localisation within peripheral nerves through evoked activity recordings: A comparison between electrical impedance tomography and multi-electrode arrays

J Neurosci Methods. 2021 Jul 1;358:109140. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2021.109140. Epub 2021 Mar 24.


Background: The lack of understanding of fascicular organisation in peripheral nerves limits the potential of vagus nerve stimulation therapy. Two promising methods may be employed to identify the functional anatomy of fascicles within the nerve: fast neural electrical impedance tomography (EIT), and penetrating multi-electrode arrays (MEA). These could provide a means to image the compound action potential within fascicles in the nerve.

New method: We compared the ability to localise fascicle activity between silicon shanks (SS) and carbon fibre (CF) multi-electrode arrays and fast neural EIT, with micro-computed tomography (MicroCT) as an independent reference. Fast neural EIT in peripheral nerves was only recently developed and MEA technology has been used only sparingly in nerves and not for source localisation. Assessment was performed in rat sciatic nerves while evoking neural activity in the tibial and peroneal fascicles.

Results: Recorded compound action potentials were larger with CF compared to SS (∼700 μV vs ∼300 μV); however, background noise was greater (6.3 μV vs 1.7 μV) leading to lower SNR. Maximum spatial discrimination between Centres-of-Mass of fascicular activity was achieved by fast neural EIT (402 ± 30 μm) and CF MEA (414 ± 123 μm), with no statistical difference between MicroCT (625 ± 17 μm) and CF (p > 0.05) and between CF and EIT (p > 0.05). Compared to CF MEAs, SS MEAs had a lower discrimination power (103 ± 51 μm, p < 0.05).

Comparison with existing methods: EIT and CF MEAs showed localisation power closest to MicroCT. Silicon MEAs adopted in this study failed to discriminate fascicle location. Re-design of probe geometry may improve results.

Conclusions: Nerve EIT is an accurate tool for assessment of fascicular position within nerves. Accuracy of EIT and CF MEA is similar to the reference method. We give technical recommendations for performing multi-electrode recordings in nerves.

Keywords: Electrical impedance tomography; Fascicular anatomy; Image reconstruction; Multi-electrode arrays; Peripheral nerves.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Electric Impedance
  • Electrodes
  • Rats
  • Sciatic Nerve* / diagnostic imaging
  • X-Ray Microtomography