Apologies if this is too basic of a question, but I am an electrical engineer, just getting into neuromodulation/neurostimulation.

For my senior project, I am trying to make a device that stimulates the sphenopalatine ganglion. I have read as much as I can online, but some basic questions seem to not be answered. Answers to any of these would be really really helpful, as well as any resources to continue my research:

  1. When I'm trying to 'stimulate' a neuron, I am really trying to trigger an action potential, correct?
  2. Can I just send current across the exterior of the membrane to trigger an action potential?
  3. Is is possible to stimulate a neuron without piercing the membrane? I know an action potential is the voltage across the membrane, so how can I change that voltage without piercing the membrane?
  4. I believe I need to record the action potentials of the neuron, to make sure that my device is targeting the correct location and working properly, is this possible without piercing the neuron?
  5. From the literature, I found that a 10 Hz electrical pulse works best for the sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation, but I am not sure how frequency plays a role in this.

Sorry again if that is a lot, but I am new to the field and have a lot of questions. Thanks in advance for any help!

  • $\begingroup$ I'd highly recommend collaborating with an electrophysiologist. You wouldn't want a neuroscientist without other training to wire up the electrical in your house (frankly, probably not even an electrical engineer, either, this is an electrician's job). Doubly, triply, 100X, 1000X more important to collaborate with someone with human electrophysiology expertise if you plan to get anywhere near a human with this. Not something that can be covered in a SE Q&A. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 19, 2020 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ Hey thanks for the quick response. So I am kind of working with some neuroscientists/electrophysiologists in the field, but they are very busy and my manager says we should get some prototype finished before we meet with them. So I need to do my background research (which now includes a SE Q&A) before I can get the help for my specific project and bring it to an actual human. It's an inefficient system, but it is what it is. $\endgroup$
    – Brian
    Nov 19, 2020 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ The simple answers to your 5 questions are: not necessarily, yes, yes (you're an electrical engineer; membranes are capacitors), yes but this is complicated, it's complicated - I doubt any of those really get you closer in your project, though. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 19, 2020 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ As @BryanKrause mentioned, these are expert level questions. You cannot build a prototype without some knowledge of electrophysiology. There are entire books and experimental manuals written on this topic. Perhaps you can build a computer based model just to present the idea but it would not be wise to build a prototype without getting the neuroscientists on board. $\endgroup$
    Nov 19, 2020 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Brian The two undergraduate neuroscience books I usually recommend are Purves or Kandel. The electrophysiology sections should have a lot of concepts familiar to you from the electrical part of your physics courses, but they probably focus on patch clamp electrophysiology from a technique standpoint. You have a very specialized target so from there you're probably headed to the literature. Google scholar tends to give me the most thorough results; medical indices like PubMed might miss some articles in journals with more of an engineering focus. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 19, 2020 at 20:17


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