An intra-neural microstimulation system for ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography

Glover, Paul M. and Watkins, Roger H. and O’Neill, George C. and Ackerley, Rochelle M. and Sánchez-Panchuelo, Rosa-Maria and McGlone, Francis and Brookes, Matthew J. and Wessberg, Johan and Francis, Susan T. (2017) An intra-neural microstimulation system for ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 290 . pp. 69-78. ISSN 1872-678X

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Intra-neural microstimulation (INMS) is a technique that allows the precise delivery of low-current electrical pulses into human peripheral nerves. Single unit INMS can be used to stimulate individual afferent nerve fibres during microneurography. Combining this with neuroimaging allows the unique monitoring of central nervous system activation in response to unitary, controlled tactile input, with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) providing exquisite spatial localisation of brain activity and magnetoencephalography (MEG) high temporal resolution.

New method

INMS systems suitable for use within electrophysiology laboratories have been available for many years. We describe an INMS system specifically designed to provide compatibility with both ultra-high field (7 T) fMRI and MEG. Numerous technical and safety issues are addressed. The system is fully analogue, allowing for arbitrary frequency and amplitude INMS stimulation.


Unitary recordings obtained within both the MRI and MEG screened-room environments are comparable with those obtained in ‘clean’ electrophysiology recording environments. Single unit INMS (current <7 μA, 200 μs pulses) of individual mechanoreceptive afferents produces appropriate and robust responses during fMRI and MEG.

Comparison with existing method(s)

This custom-built MRI- and MEG-compatible stimulator overcomes issues with existing INMS approaches; it allows well-controlled switching between recording and stimulus mode, prevents electrical shocks because of long cable lengths, permits unlimited patterns of stimulation, and provides a system with improved work-flow and participant comfort.


We demonstrate that the requirements for an INMS-integrated system, which can be used with both fMRI and MEG imaging systems, have been fully met.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Instrumentation, Stimulus generation, Low-noise amplifier, Nerve stimulation, Magnetoencephalography, Functional magnetic resonance imaging, Ultra-high magnetic field, Human, Microneurography, Tactile, Touch, Low-threshold mechanoreceptor
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Science > School of Physics and Astronomy
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2017 08:39
Last Modified: 08 May 2020 12:00

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