Microstimulation-evoked neural responses in visual cortex are depth dependent

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Background: Cortical visual prostheses often use penetrating electrode arrays to deliver microstimulation to the visual cortex. To optimize electrode placement within the cortex, the neural responses to microstimulation at different cortical depths must first be understood. Objective: We investigated how the neural responses evoked by microstimulation in cortex varied with cortical depth, of both stimulation and response. Methods: A 32-channel single shank electrode array was inserted into the primary visual cortex of anaesthetized rats, such that it spanned all cortical layers. Microstimulation with currents up to 14 μA (single biphasic pulse, 200 μs per phase) was applied at depths spanning 1600 μm, while simultaneously recording neural activity on all channels within a response window 2.25–11 ms. Results: Stimulation elicited elevated neuronal firing rates at all depths of cortex. Compared to deep sites, superficial stimulation sites responded with higher firing rates at a given current and had lower thresholds. The laminar spread of evoked activity across cortical depth depended on stimulation depth, in line with anatomical models. Conclusion: Stimulation in the superficial layers of visual cortex evokes local neural activity with the lowest thresholds, and stimulation in the deep layers evoked the most activity across the cortical column. In conjunction with perceptual reports, these data suggest that the optimal electrode placement for cortical microstimulation prostheses has electrodes positioned in layers 2/3, and at the top of layer 5.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-750
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Cortical stimulation
  • Depth
  • Lamina
  • Visual cortex
  • Visual prostheses

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