Transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) is rapidly becoming an indispensable clinical tool with its different forms. Animal data are crucially needed for better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of tES. For reproducibility of results in animal experiments, the electric fields (E-Fields) inside the brain parenchyma induced by the injected currents need to be predicted accurately. In this study, we measured the electrical fields in the rat brain perpendicular to the brain surface, i.e. vertical electric field (VE-field), when the stimulation electrode was placed over the skin, skull, or dura mater through a craniotomy hole. The E-field attenuation through the skin was a few times larger than that of the skull and the presence of skin substantially reduced the VE-field peak at the cortical surface near the electrode. The VE-field declined much quicker in the gray matter underneath the pial surface than it did in the white matter, and thus the large VE-fields were contained mostly in the gray matter. The transition at the gray/white matter border caused a significant peak in the VE-field, as well as at other local inhomogeneties. A conductivity value of 0.57 S/m is predicted as a global value for the whole brain by matching our VE-field measurements to the field profile given by analytical equations for volume conductors. Finally, insertion of the current return electrode into the shoulder, submandibular, and hind leg muscles had virtually no effects on the measured E-field amplitudes in the cortex underneath the epidural electrodes.
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