Electrical stimulation of the midbrain excites the auditory cortex asymmetrically

Gunnar Lennart Quass, Simone Kurt, K. Jannis Hildebrandt, Andrej Kral

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Auditory midbrain implant users cannot achieve open speech perception and have limited frequency resolution. It remains unclear whether the spread of excitation contributes to this issue and how much it can be compensated by current-focusing, which is an effective approach in cochlear implants.

Objective: The present study examined the spread of excitation in the cortex elicited by electric midbrain stimulation. We further tested whether current-focusing via bipolar and tripolar stimulation is effective with electric midbrain stimulation and whether these modes hold any advantage over monopolar stimulation also in conditions when the stimulation electrodes are in direct contact with the target tissue.

Methods: Using penetrating multielectrode arrays, we recorded cortical population responses to single pulse electric midbrain stimulation in 10 ketamine/xylazine anesthetized mice. We compared monopolar, bipolar, and tripolar stimulation configurations with regard to the spread of excitation and the characteristic frequency difference between the stimulation/recording electrodes.

Results: The cortical responses were distributed asymmetrically around the characteristic frequency of the stimulated midbrain region with a strong activation in regions tuned up to one octave higher. We found no significant differences between monopolar, bipolar, and tripolar stimulation in threshold, evoked firing rate, or dynamic range.

Conclusion: The cortical responses to electric midbrain stimulation are biased towards higher tonotopic frequencies. Current-focusing is not effective in direct contact electrical stimulation. Electrode maps should account for the asymmetrical spread of excitation when fitting auditory midbrain implants by shifting the frequency-bands downward and stimulating as dorsally as possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1161-1174
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Inferior colliculus
  • Auditory midbrain implant
  • Current focusing
  • Neuroprosthetic stimulation
  • Hearing loss
  • Mouse

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