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Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2012;2012:4575-8. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2012.6346985.

Axon terminal polarization induced by weak uniform DC electric fields: a modeling study.

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Department of Electronics, Computer Science and Systems, University of Bologna, Cesena, Italy.


Uniform steady state (DC) electric fields, like those generated during transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), can affect neuronal excitability depending on field direction and neuronal morphology. In addition to somatic polarization, subthreshold membrane polarization of axon compartments can play a significant role in modulating synaptic efficacy. The aim of this study is to provide an estimation of axon terminal polarization in a weak uniform subthreshold electric field. Simulations based on 3D morphology reconstructions and simplified models indicate that for axons having long final branches compared to the local space constant (L>4λ) the terminal polarization converges to Eλ for electric fields oriented in the same direction as the branch. In particular we determined how and when analytical approximations could be extended to real cases when considering maximal potential polarization during weak DC stimulation.

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