The effects of electrical microstimulation on cortical signal propagation

Nikos K. Logothetis, Mark Augath, Yusuke Murayama, Alexander Rauch, Fahad Sultan, Jozien Goense, Axel Oeltermann, Hellmut Merkle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrical stimulation has been used in animals and humans to study potential causal links between neural activity and specific cognitive functions. Recently, it has found increasing use in electrotherapy and neural prostheses. However, the manner in which electrical stimulation-elicited signals propagate in brain tissues remains unclear. We used combined electrostimulation, neurophysiology, microinjection and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the cortical activity patterns elicited during stimulation of cortical afferents in monkeys. We found that stimulation of a site in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) increased the fMRI signal in the regions of primary visual cortex (V1) that received input from that site, but suppressed it in the retinotopically matched regions of extrastriate cortex. Consistent with previous observations, intracranial recordings indicated that a short excitatory response occurring immediately after a stimulation pulse was followed by a long-lasting inhibition. Following microinjections of GABA antagonists in V1, LGN stimulation induced positive fMRI signals in all of the cortical areas. Taken together, our findings suggest that electrical stimulation disrupts cortico-cortical signal propagation by silencing the output of any neocortical area whose afferents are electrically stimulated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1283-1291
Number of pages9
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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