Cathodic-leading pulses are more effective than anodic-leading pulses in intracortical microstimulation of the auditory cortex

Mathias Benjamin Voigt, Andrej Kral

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Objective: Intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) is widely used in neuroscientific research. Earlier work from our lab showed the possibility to combine ICMS with neuronal recordings on the same shank of multi-electrode arrays and consequently inside the same cortical column in vivo. The standard stimulus pulse shape for ICMS is a symmetric, biphasic current pulse. Here, we investigated the role of the leading-phase polarity (cathodic- versus anodic-leading) of such single ICMS pulses on the activation of the cortical network.

Approach: Local field potentials (LFPs) and multi-unit responses were recorded in the primary auditory cortex (A1) of adult guinea pigs (n  =  15) under ketamine/xylazine anesthesia using linear multi-electrode arrays. Physiological responses of A1 were recorded during acoustic stimulation and ICMS. For the ICMS, the leading-phase polarity, the stimulated electrode and the stimulation current where varied systematically on any one of the 16 electrodes while recording at the same time with the 15 remaining electrodes.

Main results: Cathodic-leading ICMS consistently led to higher response amplitudes. In superficial cortical layers and for a given current amplitude, cathodic-leading and anodic-leading ICMS showed comparable activation patterns, while in deep layers only cathodic-leading ICMS reliably generated local neuronal activity. ICMS had a significantly smaller dynamic range than acoustic stimulation regardless of leading-phase polarity.

Significance: The present study provides in vivo evidence for a differential neuronal activation mechanism of the different leading-phase polarities, with cathodic-leading stimulation being more effective, and suggests that the waveform of the stimulus should be considered systematically for cortical neuroprosthesis development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number036002
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Publisher 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • auditory
  • cortex
  • neuroprosthetic
  • cortical implant
  • hearing


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