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J Neural Eng. 2008 Jun;5(2):163-74. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/5/2/007. Epub 2008 Apr 28.

Transcranial current stimulation focality using disc and ring electrode configurations: FEM analysis.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, The City College of New York of the City University of New York, NY 10031, USA.


We calculated the electric fields induced in the brain during transcranial current stimulation (TCS) using a finite-element concentric spheres human head model. A range of disc electrode configurations were simulated: (1) distant-bipolar; (2) adjacent-bipolar; (3) tripolar; and three ring designs, (4) belt, (5) concentric ring, and (6) double concentric ring. We compared the focality of each configuration targeting cortical structures oriented normal to the surface ('surface-radial' and 'cross-section radial'), cortical structures oriented along the brain surface ('surface-tangential' and 'cross-section tangential') and non-oriented cortical surface structures ('surface-magnitude' and 'cross-section magnitude'). For surface-radial fields, we further considered the 'polarity' of modulation (e.g. superficial cortical neuron soma hyper/depolarizing). The distant-bipolar configuration, which is comparable with commonly used TCS protocols, resulted in diffuse (un-focal) modulation with bi-directional radial modulation under each electrode and tangential modulation between electrodes. Increasing the proximity of the two electrodes (adjacent-bipolar electrode configuration) increased focality, at the cost of more surface current. At similar electrode distances, the tripolar-electrodes configuration produced comparable peak focality, but reduced radial bi-directionality. The concentric-ring configuration resulted in the highest spatial focality and uni-directional radial modulation, at the expense of increased total surface current. Changing ring dimensions, or use of two concentric rings, allow titration of this balance. The concentric-ring design may thus provide an optimized configuration for targeted modulation of superficial cortical neurons.

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