What does the ratio of injected current to electrode area tell us about current density in the brain during tDCS?

  • Miranda P
  • Faria P
  • Hallett M
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Abstract

Objective: To examine the relationship between the ratio of injected current to electrode area (I/A) and the current density at a fixed target point in the brain under the electrode during transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Methods: Numerical methods were used to calculate the current density distribution in a standard spherical head model as well as in a homogeneous cylindrical conductor. Results: The calculations using the cylindrical model showed that, for the same I/A ratio, the current density at a fixed depth under the electrode was lower for the smaller of the two electrodes. Using the spherical model, the current density at a fixed target point in the brain under the electrode was found to be a non-linear function of the I/A ratio. For smaller electrodes, more current than predicted by the I/A ratio was required to achieve a predetermined current density in the brain. Conclusions: A non-linear relationship exists between the injected current, the electrode area and the current density at a fixed target point in the brain, which can be described in terms of a montage-specific I-A curve. Significance: I-A curves calculated using realistic head models or obtained experimentally should be used when adjusting the current for different electrode sizes or when comparing the effect of different current-electrode area combinations. © 2009 International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Current density
  • Direct current
  • Electric
  • Polarization
  • Stimulation
  • Transcranial
  • tDCS

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