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J Neural Eng. 2011 Oct;8(5):056006. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/8/5/056006. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Spread of cochlear excitation during stimulation with pulsed infrared radiation: inferior colliculus measurements.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Infrared neural stimulation (INS) has received considerable attention over the last few years. It provides an alternative method to artificially stimulate neurons without electrical current or the introduction of exogenous chromophores. One of the primary benefits of INS could be the improved spatial selectivity when compared with electrical stimulation. In the present study, we have evaluated the spatial selectivity of INS in the acutely damaged cochlea of guinea pigs and compared it to stimulation with acoustic tone pips in normal-hearing animals. The radiation was delivered via a 200 µm diameter optical fiber, which was inserted through a cochleostomy into the scala tympani of the basal cochlear turn. The stimulated section along the cochlear spiral ganglion was estimated from the neural responses recorded from the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC). ICC responses were recorded in response to cochlear INS using a multichannel penetrating electrode array. Spatial tuning curves (STCs) were constructed from the responses. For INS, approximately 55% of the activation profiles showed a single maximum, ∼22% had two maxima and ∼13% had multiple maxima. The remaining 10% of the profiles occurred at the limits of the electrode array and could not be classified. The majority of ICC STCs indicated that the spread of activation evoked by optical stimuli is comparable to that produced by acoustic tone pips.

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