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Reversible Nerve Conduction Block Using Low Frequency Alternating Currents

posted on 05.08.2020 by Maria I. Muzquiz, Ivette M Muzquiz
This thesis describes a novel method to reversibly and safely block nerve conduction using a low frequency alternating current (LFAC) waveform at 1 Hz applied through a bipolar extrafascicular electrode. This work follows up on observations made on excised mammalian peripheral nerves and earthworm nerve cords. An in-situ electrophysiology setup was used to assess the LFAC
waveform on propagating action potentials (APs) within the cervical vagus nerve in anaesthetized Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 12). Two sets of bipolar cuff or hook electrodes were applied unilaterally to the cervical vagus nerve, which was crushed rostral to the electrodes to exclude reflex effects
on the animal. Pulse stimulation was applied to the rostral electrode, while the LFAC conditioning waveform was applied to the caudal electrode. The efferent volley, if unblocked, elicits acute bradycardia and hypotension. The degree of block of the vagal stimulation induced bradycardia
was used as a biomarker. Block was assessed by the ability to reduce the bradycardic drive by monitoring the heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) during LFAC alone, LFAC with vagal stimulation, and vagal stimulation alone. LFAC applied via a hook electrode (n = 7) achieved 86.6 +/- 11% block at current levels 95 +/- 38 uAp (current to peak). When applied via a cuff electrode (n = 5) 85.3 +/- 4.60% block was achieved using current levels of 110 +/- 65 uAp. Furthermore, LFAC was explored on larger vagal afferent fibers in larger human sized nerve bundles projecting to effects mediated by a reflex. The effectiveness of LFAC was assessed in an in-situ electrophysiological setup on the left cervical vagus in anaesthetized domestic swine (n = 5). Two bipolar cuff electrodes were applied unilaterally to the cervical vagus nerve, which was crushed caudal to the electrodes to eliminate cardiac effects. A tripolar extrafascicular cuff electrode was placed most rostral on the nerve for recording of propagating APs induced by
electrical stimulation and blocked via the LFAC waveform.
Standard pulse stimulation was applied to the left cervical vagus to induce the Hering-Breuer reflex. If unblocked, the activation of the Hering-Breuer reflex would cause breathing to slow down and potentially cease. Block was quantified by the ability to reduce the effect of the Hering-Breuer
reflex by monitoring the breathing rate during LFAC alone, LFAC and vagal stimulation, and vagal stimulation alone. LFAC achieved 87.2 +/- 8.8% (n = 5) block at current levels of 0.8 +/- 0.3 mAp. Compound nerve action potentials (CNAP) were monitored directly. They show changes
in nerve activity during LFAC, which manifests itself as the slowing and amplitude reduction of components of the CNAPs. Since the waveform is balanced, all forward reactions are reversed, leading to a blocking method that is similar in nature to DC block without the potential issues of
toxic byproduct production. These results suggest that LFAC can achieve a high degree of nerve block in both small and large nerve bundles, resulting in the change in behavior of a biomarker, in-vivo in the mammalian nervous system at low amplitudes of electrical stimulation that are within the water window of the electrode.


Exploratory Research Grant #100040339 from GSK/Galvani Bioelectronics

Reversible block of nerve conduction using low frequency alternating currents

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

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IUPUI Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP)

IUPUI BME Department Faculty Development Fund

Familien Hede-Nielsens Fonden


Degree Type

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering


Biomedical Engineering

Campus location


Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Ken Yoshida

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. John Schild

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Ed Berbari