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J Neurosci. 2003 Aug 13;23(19):7255-61.

Sensitivity of neurons to weak electric fields.

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Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia 22030, USA.


Weak electric fields modulate neuronal activity, and knowledge of the interaction threshold is important in the understanding of neuronal synchronization, in neural prosthetic design, and in the public health assessment of environmental extremely low frequency fields. Previous experimental measurements have placed the threshold between 1 and 5 mV/mm, although theory predicts that elongated neurons should have submillivolt per millimeter sensitivity near 100 microV/mm. We here provide the first experimental confirmation that neuronal networks are detectably sensitive to submillivolt per millimeter electrical fields [Gaussian pulses 26 msec full width at half-maximal, 140 microV/mm root mean square (rms), 295 microV/mm peak amplitude], an order of magnitude below previous findings, and further demonstrate that these networks are more sensitive than the average single neuron threshold (185 microV/mm rms, 394 microV/mm peak amplitude) to field modulation.

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