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Artif Organs. 2011 Mar;35(3):257-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1594.2011.01213.x.

Can the human lumbar posterior columns be stimulated by transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation? A modeling study.

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Institute for Analysis and Scientific Computing, Vienna University of Technology Center of Biomedical Engineering and Physics, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.

Erratum in

  • Artif Organs. 2011 May;35(5):556.


Stimulation of different spinal cord segments in humans is a widely developed clinical practice for modification of pain, altered sensation, and movement. The human lumbar cord has become a target for modification of motor control by epidural and, more recently, by transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation. Posterior columns of the lumbar spinal cord represent a vertical system of axons and when activated can add other inputs to the motor control of the spinal cord than stimulated posterior roots. We used a detailed three-dimensional volume conductor model of the torso and the McIntyre-Richard-Grill axon model to calculate the thresholds of axons within the posterior columns in response to transcutaneous lumbar spinal cord stimulation. Superficially located large-diameter posterior column fibers with multiple collaterals have a threshold of 45.4 V, three times higher than posterior root fibers (14.1 V). With the stimulation strength needed to activate posterior column axons, posterior root fibers of large and small diameters as well as anterior root fibers are coactivated. The reported results inform on these threshold differences, when stimulation is applied to the posterior structures of the lumbar cord at intensities above the threshold of large-diameter posterior root fibers.

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