Location specificity of transcranial electrical stimulation on neuronal electrodynamics: A mathematical model of ion channel gating dynamics and ionic flux due to neurostimulation

Document Type


Publication Title

Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience

Publication Date



Transcranial Electrical Stimulation (TES) continues to demonstrate success as a medical intervention for individuals with neurodegenerative diseases. Despite promising results from these neuromodulation modalities, the cellular level mechanisms by which this neurotherapy operates are not fully comprehended. In particular, the effects of TES on ion channel gating and ion transport are not known. Using the Poisson-Nernst-Planck model of electrodiffusion, coupled with a Hodgkin-Huxley based model of cellular ion transport, we present a model of TES that, for the first time, integrates electric potential energy, individualized ion species, voltage-gated ion channels, and transmembrane ionic flux during TES administration. Computational simulations are executed on a biologically-inspired domain with medically-based TES treatment parameters and quantify neuron-level electrical processes resulting from this form of neurostimulation. Results confirm prior findings that show that TES polarizes the cell membrane, however, these are extended as simulations in this paper show that polarization occurs in a location specific manner, where the type and degree of polarization depends on the position on the membrane within a node of Ranvier. In addition, results demonstrate that TES causes ion channel gating variables to change in a location specific fashion and, as a result, transmembrane current from distinct ion species depends on both time and membrane location. Another simulation finding is that intracellular calcium concentrations increase significantly due to a TES-induced calcium influx. As cytosolic calcium is critical in intracellular signaling pathways that govern proper neurotransmitter secretion as well as support cell viability, this alteration in calcium homeostasis suggests a possible mechanism by which TES operates at the neuronal level to achieve neurotherapeutic success.