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J Neurophysiol. 2010 Nov;104(5):2778-91. doi: 10.1152/jn.00551.2010. Epub 2010 Sep 1.

Selective activation of neuronal targets with sinusoidal electric stimulation.

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  • 1Center for Innovative Visual Rehabilitation, Boston Veterans Administration Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Electric stimulation of the CNS is being evaluated as a treatment modality for a variety of neurological, psychiatric, and sensory disorders. Despite considerable success in some applications, existing stimulation techniques offer little control over which cell types or neuronal substructures are activated by stimulation. The ability to more precisely control neuronal activation would likely improve the clinical outcomes associated with these applications. Here, we show that specific frequencies of sinusoidal stimulation can be used to preferentially activate certain retinal cell types: photoreceptors are activated at 5 Hz, bipolar cells at 25 Hz, and ganglion cells at 100 Hz. In addition, low-frequency stimulation (≤25 Hz) did not activate passing axons but still elicited robust synaptically mediated responses in ganglion cells; therefore, elicited neural activity is confined to within a focal region around the stimulating electrode. Our results suggest that sinusoidal stimulation provides significantly improved control over elicited neural activity relative to conventional pulsatile stimulation.

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