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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 Nov 2023 - 24 Nov 2023

2023 Nov 09



Editor's Pick

Absence of paresthesia during high-rate spinal cord stimulation reveals importance of synchrony for sensations evoked by electrical stimulation.


Sagalajev B, Zhang T, Abdollahi N, Yousefpour N, Medlock L, Al-Basha D, Ribeiro-da-Silva A, Esteller R, Ratté S, Prescott SA


Electrically activating mechanoreceptive afferents inhibits pain. However, paresthesia evoked by spinal cord stimulation (SCS) at 40-60 Hz becomes uncomfortable at high pulse amplitudes, limiting SCS “dosage.” Kilohertz-frequency SCS produces analgesia without paresthesia and is thought, therefore, not to activate afferent axons. We show that paresthesia is absent not because axons do not spike but because they spike asynchronously. In a pain patient, selectively increasing SCS frequency abolished paresthesia and epidurally recorded evoked compound action potentials (ECAPs). Dependence of ECAP amplitude on SCS frequency was reproduced in pigs, rats, and computer simulations and is explained by overdrive desynchronization: spikes desychronize when axons are stimulated faster than their refractory period. Unlike synchronous spikes, asynchronous spikes fail to produce paresthesia because their transmission to somatosensory cortex is blocked by feedforward inhibition. Our results demonstrate how stimulation frequency impacts synchrony based on axon properties and how synchrony impacts sensation based on circuit properties.