In vitro magnetic stimulation: A simple stimulation device to deliver defined low intensity electromagnetic fields

Stephanie Grehl, David Martina, Catherine Goyenvalle, Zhi De Deng, Jennifer Rodger, Rachel M. Sherrard

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)


    Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) by electromagnetic fields appears to benefit human neurological and psychiatric conditions, although the optimal stimulation parameters and underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Although, in vitro studies have begun to elucidate cellular mechanisms, stimulation is delivered by a range of coils (from commercially available human stimulation coils to laboratory-built circuits) so that the electromagnetic fields induced within the tissue to produce the reported effects are ill-defined. Here, we develop a simple in vitro stimulation device with plug-and-play features that allow delivery of a range of stimulation parameters. We chose to test low intensity repetitive magnetic stimulation (LI-rMS) delivered at three frequencies to hindbrain explant cultures containing the olivocerebellar pathway. We used computational modeling to define the parameters of a stimulation circuit and coil that deliver a unidirectional homogeneous magnetic field of known intensity and direction, and therefore a predictable electric field, to the target. We built the coil to be compatible with culture requirements: stimulation within an incubator; a flat surface allowing consistent position and magnetic field direction; location outside the culture plate to maintain sterility and no heating or vibration. Measurements at the explant confirmed the induced magnetic field was homogenous and matched the simulation results. To validate our system we investigated biological effects following LI-rMS at 1 Hz, 10 Hz and biomimetic high frequency, which we have previously shown induces neural circuit reorganization. We found that gene expression was modified by LI-rMS in a frequency-related manner. Four hours after a single 10-min stimulation session, the number of c-fos positive cells increased, indicating that our stimulation activated the tissue. Also, after 14 days of LI-rMS, the expression of genes normally present in the tissue was differentially modified according to the stimulation delivered. Thus we describe a simple magnetic stimulation device that delivers defined stimulation parameters to different neural systems in vitro. Such devices are essential to further understanding of the fundamental effects of magnetic stimulation on biological tissue and optimize therapeutic application of human NIBS.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number85
    JournalFrontiers in Neural Circuits
    Issue numberNOV
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2016


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