Determination of current density distributions generated by electrical stimulation of the human cerebral cortex

Surendar S. Nathan, Saurabh R. Sinha, Barry Gordon, Ronald P. Lesser, Nitish V. Thakor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

205 Scopus citations


With the use of a 3-dimensional finite element model of the human brain based on structural data from MRI scans, we simulated patterns of current flow in the cerebral hemisphere with different types of electrical stimulation. Five different tissue types were incorporated into the model based on conductivities taken from the literature. The boundary value problem derived from Laplace's equation was solved with a quasistatic approximation. Transcranial electrical stimulation with scalp electrodes was poorly focussed and required high levels of current for stimulation of the cortex. Direct cortical stimulation with bipolar (adjacent) electrodes was found to be very effective in producing localized current flows. Unipolar cortical stimulation (with a more distant reference electrode) produced higher current densities at the same stimulating current as did bipolar stimulation, but stimulated a larger region of the cortex. With the simulated electrodes resting on the pia-arachnoid, as usually occurs clinically, there was significant shunting of the current (7/8 of the total current) through the CSF. Possible changes in electrodes and stimulation parameters that might improve stimulation procedures are discovered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-192
Number of pages10
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993


  • (Human)
  • Cerebral cortex
  • Current density distribution
  • Electrical stimulation
  • MRI scan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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