Channel-hopping during surface electrical neurostimulation elicits selective, comfortable, distally referred sensations

A. E. Pena, J. J. Abbas, R. Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective. Lack of sensation from a hand or prosthesis can result in substantial functional deficits. Surface electrical stimulation of the peripheral nerves is a promising non-invasive approach to restore lost sensory function. However, the utility of standard surface stimulation methods has been hampered by localized discomfort caused by unintended activation of afferents near the electrodes and limited ability to specifically target underlying neural tissue. The objectives of this work were to develop and evaluate a novel channel-hopping interleaved pulse scheduling (CHIPS) strategy for surface stimulation that is designed to activate deep nerves while reducing activation of fibers near the electrodes. Approach. The median nerve of able-bodied subjects was activated by up to two surface stimulating electrode pairs placed around their right wrist. Subjects received biphasic current pulses either from one electrode pair at a time (single-channel), or interleaved between two electrode pairs (multi-channel). Percept thresholds were characterized for five pulse durations under each approach, and psychophysical questionnaires were used to interrogate the perceived modality, quality and location of evoked sensations. Main results. Stimulation with CHIPS elicited enhanced tactile percepts that were distally referred, while avoiding the distracting sensations and discomfort associated with localized charge densities. These effects were reduced after introduction of large delays between interleaved pulses. Significance. These findings demonstrate that our pulse scheduling strategy can selectively elicit referred sensations that are comfortable, thus overcoming the primary limitations of standard surface stimulation methods. Implementation of this strategy with an array of spatially distributed electrodes may allow for rapid and effective stimulation fitting. The ability to elicit comfortable and referred tactile percepts may enable the use of this neurostimulation strategy to provide meaningful and intuitive feedback from a prosthesis, enhance tactile feedback after sensory loss secondary to nerve damage, and deliver non-invasive stimulation therapies to treat various pain conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number055004
JournalJournal of neural engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • haptics
  • neuroprosthetics
  • non-invasive electrical stimulation
  • peripheral nerve stimulation
  • sensory feedback
  • transcutaneous stimulation
  • upper limb prosthetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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