Objective: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation method which uses weak electric currents applied on the scalp to modulate activity of underlying brain tissue. TDCS is a tool for neurophysiologic investigation, and has therapeutic potential in epilepsy, post-stroke rehabilitation, and other neurologic disorders. Though the safety and tolerability of tDCS in adults is well-established, safety information on tDCS in children is lacking. This study aimed to present computational models of tDCS current flow in pediatric subjects. Methods: High resolution MRI images of two healthy children, ages 8 and 12 years, and one healthy adult, were semi-manually segmented into skin, bone, air, eyes, CSF, gray and white matter. A volumetric mesh was generated and overlaid with digitally simulated stimulation electrodes. The electrical properties of the tissues were assigned average isotropic conductivity values. Using finite- element modeling, cortical electrical field maps were generated for 3 stimulation intensities and 5 electrode configurations. Results: The peak electrical fields for a given stimulus intensity were 2 to 4 times higher in the pediatric brains compared to the adult brain, depending on the electrode montage used. For example, 2 mA stimulation over motor cortex (anode) and contralateral forehead (cathode) produced peak electric fields of 1.01 V/m for the 8 year old, 1.04 V/m for the 12 year old and 0.35 V/m for the adult. Conclusions: Acceptable tDCS stimulation parameters may be different in children compared to adults. Further studies are needed to help guide decisions about applied current intensity.
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