Cervical transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation (tSCS) efficacy for rehabilitation of upper-limb motor function was suggested to depend on recruitment of Ia afferents. However, selectivity and excitability of motor activation with different electrode configurations remain unclear. In this study, activation of upper-limb motor pools was examined with different cathode and anode configurations during cervical tSCS in 10 able-bodied individuals. Muscle responses were measured from six upper-limb muscles simultaneously. First, postactivation depression was confirmed with tSCS paired pulses (50-ms interval) for each cathode configuration (C6, C7, and T1 vertebral levels), with anode on the anterior neck. Selectivity and excitability of activation of the upper-limb motor pools were examined by comparing the recruitment curves (10–100 mA) of first evoked responses across muscles and cathode configurations. Our results showed that hand muscles were preferentially activated when the cathode was placed over T1 compared with the other vertebral levels, whereas there was no selectivity for proximal arm muscles. Furthermore, higher stimulation intensities were required to activate distal hand muscles than proximal arm muscles, suggesting different excitability thresholds between muscles. In a separate protocol, responses were compared between anode configurations (anterior neck, shoulders, iliac crests, and back), with one selected cathode configuration. The level of discomfort was also assessed. Largest muscle responses were elicited with the anode configuration over the anterior neck, whereas there were no differences in the discomfort. Our results therefore inform methodological considerations for electrode configuration to help optimize recruitment of Ia afferents during cervical tSCS. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We examined selectivity and excitability of motor activation in multiple upper-limb muscles during cervical transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation with different cathode and anode configurations. Hand muscles were more activated when the cathode was configured over the T1 vertebra compared with C6 and C7 locations. Higher stimulation intensities were required to activate distal hand muscles than proximal arm muscles. Finally, configuration of anode over anterior neck elicited larger responses compared with other configurations.
- Postactivation depression
- Transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)