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Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2012;2012:6426-9. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2012.6347465.

On the role of electric field orientation in optimal design of transcranial current stimulation.

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City College of New York, New York, NY 10031, USA.


Transcranial current stimulation (tCS) is a promising noninvasive technique to elicit neuromodulation by passing weak electrical currents through scalp electrodes. While significant effort has been devoted towards designing stimulation protocols which "steer" current to regions of interest, previous work has been almost exclusively focused on the magnitude of the electric field, while ignoring the effects of direction. This is despite previous in vitro studies demonstrating that the angle between the field orientation and the cell axis of symmetry has significant effects on the resulting membrane polarization presumably underlying therapeutic effects. To that end, here we examine the impact of the desired electric field orientation on the optimal placement of electrodes for a given target region. Based on high-resolution head models derived from magnetic resonance scans of patients enrolled in a clinical trial examining the use of tCS in rehabilitation after stroke, we derive and employ an optimization algorithm which computes the montage maximizing directed current flow at the target. The results reveal a strong dependence of the optimal montage on the desired orientation; moreover, the magnitude of the induced electric field at the target region varies widely with the preferred direction. This suggests that identifying the desired electric field orientation at the region of interest is a crucial step in the development of rational electrical stimulation paradigms.

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