Magnetic Field Reference Levels for Arbitrary Periodic Waveforms for Prevention of Peripheral Nerve Stimulation

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Guidelines for prevention of peripheral nerve stimulation from exposure to low frequency magnetic fields have been developed by standard-setting bodies. Exposure limits or reference levels (RLs) are typically set in terms of the maximum root-mean-square amplitude of a sinusoidal waveform; however, environmental flux densities are often periodic, non-sinusoidal waveforms. This work presents a procedure for deriving RLs for any generalized periodic waveform using the empirical nerve-stimulation threshold data obtained from human volunteer MRI experiments. For this purpose, the “Law of Electrostimulation” (LOE), which sets forth conditions of a waveform necessary to trigger the action potential required to depolarize cell membranes, is applied to various waveforms. The results of the LOE analysis are waveform-specific, amplitude thresholds of stimulation that are found in terms of the empirically-derived rheobase threshold time-rate-of-change flux density and chronaxie from trapezoidal pulse MRI experiments. The thresholds are converted to amplitude RLs in two asymptotic frequency regimes as per the usual practice in standard setting. The resulting RLs have the same frequency dependence as in existing standards (i.e., inverse-frequency below a transition frequency and flat above). It is shown that the transition frequency is dependent only on the shape of the waveform. Both sinusoidal and non-sinusoidal waveforms have identical peak-to-peak amplitude RLs above their respective transition frequencies. Below these frequencies, all peak-to-peak amplitude RLs have the same functional dependence on frequency when the frequency is normalized to the waveform-specific transition frequency. This results in simple criteria for testing the amplitude of any arbitrary periodic waveform against potential for stimulation. These criteria are compared to guidance given for non-sinusoidal waveforms in the ICNIRP 1 Hz–100 kHz exposure standard.

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