Modeling deep brain stimulation: point source approximation versus realistic representation of the electrode.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has emerged as an effective treatment for movement disorders; however, the fundamental mechanisms by which DBS works are not well understood. Computational models of DBS can provide insights into these fundamental mechanisms and typically require two steps: calculation of the electrical potentials generated by DBS and, subsequently, determination of the effects of the extracellular potentials on neurons. The objective of this study was to assess the validity of using a point source electrode to approximate the DBS electrode when calculating the thresholds and spatial distribution of activation of a surrounding population of model neurons in response to monopolar DBS. Extracellular potentials in a homogenous isotropic volume conductor were calculated using either a point current source or a geometrically accurate finite element model of the Medtronic DBS 3389 lead. These extracellular potentials were coupled to populations of model axons, and thresholds and spatial distributions were determined for different electrode geometries and axon orientations. Median threshold differences between DBS and point source electrodes for individual axons varied between -20.5% and 9.5% across all orientations, monopolar polarities and electrode geometries utilizing the DBS 3389 electrode. Differences in the percentage of axons activated at a given amplitude by the point source electrode and the DBS electrode were between -9.0% and 12.6% across all monopolar configurations tested. The differences in activation between the DBS and point source electrodes occurred primarily in regions close to conductor-insulator interfaces and around the insulating tip of the DBS electrode. The robustness of the point source approximation in modeling several special cases--tissue anisotropy, a long active electrode and bipolar stimulation--was also examined. Under the conditions considered, the point source was shown to be a valid approximation for predicting excitation of populations of neurons in response to DBS.
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