Chronic electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve using high surface area (HiQ) platinum electrodes

Michael Tykocinski*, Yvonne Duan, Bruce Tabor, Robert S. Cowan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


High surface area cochlear implant electrodes with much smaller geometric surface areas than current designs might be used in the future to increase the number of stimulating electrodes along the carrier. Potential problems with an increase in charge density for a common stimulus resulting from decreasing the geometric surface area would be reduced by the enlarged real surface area of such electrodes. Electrochemically modified (HiQ) platinum (Pt) electrodes, with a real surface area ∼75 times greater than the current standard Pt electrodes of the same geometric size, had shown in vitro a low polarization (Zpol) and electrode impedance (Ze), as well as a low residual direct current (DC). In this study we examined the chronic performance of HiQ electrodes in cats, which were bilaterally implanted with a two-channel HiQ or standard Pt scala tympani electrode array and unilaterally stimulated for periods of up to 2390 h. Stimuli consisted of 50 μs/phase charge-balanced biphasic current pulses presented at 2000 pulses/s/channel with a 50% duty cycle. Electrode impedance (Ze), access resistance (Ra) and polarization impedance (Zpol) were calculated from current and voltage measurements obtained periodically throughout the implantation period. Immediately following implantation HiQ electrodes showed a significantly smaller Zpol, resulting in a reduced Ze (P<0.0001) compared to standard electrodes, while there was no significant difference between Ra of both electrode designs (P=0.91). Subsequently, Ze generally increased mainly due to a rise in Ra, which dominated Ze and obliterated the effect of a lower Zpol on Ze in HiQ electrodes. Peak Ra levels correlated closely (r=0.85) with the amount of intracochlear fibrous tissue found adjacent to the array. Following explantation of the array, voltage waveforms for both electrode designs recorded in saline were again very similar to those recorded immediately after implantation. Mean DC levels were consistently lower for HiQ electrodes compared with standard electrodes (22.45 nA vs 134.7 nA). Histopathological examination of corresponding cochlear sections comparing the stimulated test side with the unstimulated control side showed no significant difference (P>0.05) for either animals implanted with HiQ electrodes (n=6) or standard electrodes (n=2). Nor were there any significant differences between the spiral ganglion cell density of the basal turn implanted with HiQ or standard electrodes for both the stimulated test (P=0.31) and the unstimulated control side (P=0.84). Although these findings are based on a small group of animals implanted with standard electrodes (n=2), and those negative statistical results could potentially be due to the small sample size, similar spiral ganglion cell survival was found in a previous study of a larger group of animals using standard electrodes stimulated with the same stimulus paradigm as in the present study [Xu et al. (1997) Hear. Res. 105, 1-29]. Our data indicate that while some initial advantages of HiQ electrodes are lost during chronic implantation due to intracochlear fibrous tissue growth, low DC levels and the high surface area appear to be maintained, suggesting that HiQ electrodes may have important clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-68
Number of pages16
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Cochlear histopathology
  • Cochlear implant
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Electrode impedance
  • High surface area electrode


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