Computer modelling of spinal cord stimulation and its contribution to therapeutic efficacy

Spinal Cord. 1998 Aug;36(8):531-40. doi: 10.1038/


An overview of computer models developed since the late seventies, which enable the simulation of the primary effects of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) on nerve fibres, is presented. These models consist of a 3-dimensional volume conductor model, representing anatomical structures and their electrical conductivities, and cable models representing the electrical behaviour of nerve fibres. The characteristics of these models and their relation to anatomy and physiology, as well as the calculation of stimulation-induced electrical fields and their effect on nerve fibre models, are reviewed. It is shown that most characteristics of SCS as predicted by computer modelling correspond well with empirical data. Accordingly, a theoretical framework describing the relations between relevant parameters in SCS is presented. Finally, it is shown how theory and computer modeling are applied to improve the efficacy of SCS by the optimization of its technique, primarily by the design of new epidural electrodes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Neural Conduction
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiology*