Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

How fast is too fast? Boundaries to the perception of electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sigrid Dupan, Dr Emma Brunton, Professor Kianoush Nazarpour



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Transcutaneous electrical stimulation is a promising technique for providing prosthetic hand users with information about sensory events. However, questions remain over how to design the stimulation paradigms to provide users the best opportunity to discriminate these events. Here, we investigate if the refractory period influences how the amplitude of the applied stimulus is perceived. Twenty participants completed a two-alternative forced choice experiment. We delivered two stimuli spaced between 250 ms to 450 ms apart (inter-stimulus-interval, isi). The participants reported which stimulus they perceived as strongest. Each stimulus consisted of either a single or paired pulse delivered transcutaneously. The inter-pulse interval (ipi) for the paired pulse stimuli varied between 6 and 10 ms. We found paired pulses with an ipi of 6 ms were perceived stronger than a single pulse less often than paired pulses with an ipi of 8 ms (p = 0.001) or 10 ms (p < 0.0001). Additionally, we found when the isi was 250 ms, participants were less likely to identify the paired pulse as strongest, than when the isi was 350 or 450 ms. This study emphasizes the importance of basing stimulation paradigms on the underlying neural physiology. The results indicate there is an upper limit to the commonly accepted notion that higher stimulation frequencies lead to stronger perception. If frequency is to be used to encode sensory events, then the results suggest stimulus paradigms should be designed using frequencies below 125 Hz.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dupan S, McNeill Z, Sarda E, Brunton E, Nazarpour K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering

Year: 2022

Pages: Epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 10/03/2022

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Date deposited: 28/03/2022

ISSN (print): 1534-4320

ISSN (electronic): 1558-0210

Publisher: IEEE


DOI: 10.1109/TNSRE.2022.3158067

PubMed id: 35271444


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name