A long-lasting wireless stimulator for small mammals

Ian D. Hentall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The chronic effects of electrical stimulation in unrestrained awake rodents are best studied with a wireless neural stimulator that can operate unsupervised for several weeks or more. A robust, inexpensive, easily built, cranially implantable stimulator was developed to explore the restorative effects of brainstem stimulation after neurotrauma. Its connectorless electrodes directly protrude from a cuboid epoxy capsule containing all circuitry and power sources. This physical arrangement prevents fluid leaks or wire breakage and also simplifies and speeds implantation. Constant-current pulses of high compliance (34 volts) are delivered from a step-up voltage regulator under microprocessor control. A slowly pulsed magnetic field controls activation state and stimulation parameters. Program status is signaled to a remote reader by interval-modulated infrared pulses. Capsule size is limited by the two batteries. Silver oxide batteries rated at 8mA-h were used routinely in 8 mm wide, 15 mm long and 4 mm high capsules. Devices of smaller contact area (5 by 12 mm) but taller (6 mm) were created for mice. Microstimulation of the rat's raphe nuclei with intermittent 5-min (50% duty cycle) trains of 30 μA, 1 ms pulses at 8 or 24 Hz frequency during 12 daylight hours lasted 21.1 days ±0.8 (mean ± standard error, Kaplan-Meir censored estimate, n = 128). Extended lifetimes (>6 weeks, no failures, n = 16) were achieved with larger batteries (44mA-h) in longer (18 mm), taller (6 mm) capsules. The circuit and electrode design are versatile; simple modifications allowed durable constant-voltage stimulation of the rat's sciatic nerve through a cylindrical cathode from a subcutaneous pelvic capsule. Devices with these general features can address in small mammals many of the biological and technical questions arising neurosurgically with prolonged peripheral or deep brain stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Neuroengineering
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 11 2013


  • Brainstem
  • Chronic effects
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS)
  • Rodents
  • Wireless implant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biophysics
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)


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