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J Neural Eng. 2011 Oct;8(5):056017. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/8/5/056017. Epub 2011 Sep 20.

Optical coherence tomography imaging of retinal damage in real time under a stimulus electrode.

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Division of Physics, Office of Science and Engineering Labs, CDRH/FDA, White Oak Federal Research Center, MD, USA.


We have developed a novel method to study the effects of electrical stimulation of the local retina directly under an epiretinal stimulus electrode in real time. Using optical coherence tomography (OCT) and a superfused retinal eyecup preparation, we obtained high-resolution images of the rabbit retina directly under an optically transparent saline-filled fluoropolymer stimulation tube electrode. During OCT imaging, 50 Hz trains of biphasic current pulses 1 ms/phase (23-749 µC cm(-2) ph(-1)) were applied to the retinal surface for 5 min. After imaging, the stimulated regions were stained with the dye propidium iodide (PI) to reveal cytotoxic damage. Pulse train stimulation at 44-133 µC cm(-2) ph(-1) had little effect on the retina; however, trains ≥442 µC cm(-2) ph(-1) caused increases in the reflectance of the inner plexiform layer (IPL) and edema. The damage seen in retinal OCT images matched the pattern observed in histological sections, and in the PI staining. With pulse trains ≥442 µC cm(-2) ph(-1), rapid increases in the reflectivity of the IPL could be observed under the stimulus electrode. Below the electrode, we observed a ring-like pattern of retinal detachment in the subretinal space. The OCT imaging method may be useful for analyzing overstimulation of neuronal tissue by electrodes in many brain regions.

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