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Eur J Neurosci. 2007 Apr;25(7):2161-9.

Detection psychophysics of intracortical microstimulation in rat primary somatosensory cortex.

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Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, Department of Cognitive Neurology, University Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


A problem of purposeful intracortical microstimulation is the long duration of neuronal integration time and the associated complex temporal interactions of effects to individual pulses in trains. Here we investigated the effects of repetitive stimuli on perception. We trained head-restraint rats to indicate the detection of cortical microstimulation in infragranular layers of barrel cortex. Three stimulus parameters: stimulus intensity, number of pulses and frequency were varied, and psychometric detection curves were assessed using the method of constant stimuli. The average psychophysical threshold of single pulses was 2.0 nC--a measure very close to what has been found earlier for the evocation of short-latency action potentials in neurons near the stimulation electrode. Detection of single-pulse stimulation always saturated at probabilities of about 0.8. In contrast, repetitive stimuli gave rise to lower thresholds (by a factor of two at 15 pulses, 320 Hz), and to saturation at probabilities close to 1. Interestingly, a large fraction of these perceptual benefits was observed already with double pulses. Moreover, the perceptual efficacy of individual pulses was higher using double pulses compared with longer sequences, i.e. double pulses were detected better than expected from the assumption of independence of single-pulse effects, while trains of 15 pulses fell well short of this expectation. The present results thus point to double-pulse stimulation as an optimal choice when trading economic stimulation against optimizing of the percept.

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