Differential activation and block of peripheral nerve fibers by magnetic fields

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The ability to noninvasively and reversibly block conduction in peripheral nerves would have several clinical applications. As an initial step in this direction, we investigated the possibility of magnetically generating and differentially blocking activity in mammalian peripheral nerve fibers in vitro. Compound action potentials at each end of individual explanted phrenic nerves were recorded in response to currents induced at the midpoint of the nerve with an externally placed magnetic coil. Current in the coil was then reversed and the recordings repeated. In all cases, the area under the compound action potential on the virtual anode side of the magnetic stimulus was reduced (mean of 18.2 ± 8.8%) in comparison to the area on the virtual cathode side. This indicates that peripheral nerve activity can be differentially induced by magnetic stimulation. Extension of this effect to the point of generating unidirectional action potentials in vivo may prove clinically useful in a number of contexts, such as reducing contractures secondary to spasticity and generating magnetically induced anesthesia in limbs. Further investigations of this effect seem warranted. Muscle Nerve, 2006

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