Energy Efficient Neural Stimulation: Coupling Circuit Design and Membrane Biophysics

Thomas J. Foutz, D. Michael Ackermann, Kevin L. Kilgore, Cameron C. McIntyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The delivery of therapeutic levels of electrical current to neural tissue is a well-established treatment for numerous indications such as Parkinson's disease and chronic pain. While the neuromodulation medical device industry has experienced steady clinical growth over the last two decades, much of the core technology underlying implanted pulse generators remain unchanged. In this study we propose some new methods for achieving increased energy-efficiency during neural stimulation. The first method exploits the biophysical features of excitable tissue through the use of a centered-triangular stimulation waveform. Neural activation with this waveform is achieved with a statistically significant reduction in energy compared to traditional rectangular waveforms. The second method demonstrates energy savings that could be achieved by advanced circuitry design. We show that the traditional practice of using a fixed compliance voltage for constant-current stimulation results in substantial energy loss. A portion of this energy can be recuperated by adjusting the compliance voltage to real-time requirements. Lastly, we demonstrate the potential impact of axon fiber diameter on defining the energy-optimal pulse-width for stimulation. When designing implantable pulse generators for energy efficiency, we propose that the future combination of a variable compliance system, a centered-triangular stimulus waveform, and an axon diameter specific stimulation pulse-width has great potential to reduce energy consumption and prolong battery life in neuromodulation devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere51901
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 13 2012


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