Broser P, Braun C.
Hydraulic driven fast and precisie non-magnetic tactile stimulator for neurophysiological and MEG measurements.
IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2012 Aug 7.


Electric stimulation of the peripheral nerves is well established as a diagnostic and research tool to analyze the somatosensory system. However, electric stimulation has some disadvantages. Electric stimulation of the median nerve triggers action potentials in all fiber populations of the nerve. Electric stimulation further creates artifacts and courses discomfort which is usually not well tolerated in the awake child. Therefore, the development of a more specific stimulation has constantly been a goal in recent years. There have been several approaches in the past to deliver somatic stimulation. However, all of them failed short in some aspects. In this study, a new type of somatosensory stimulator device was developed and compared against the gold standard of electric stimulation. The stimulation is achieved by repetitive tactile stimulation of the index finger using a blunt needle. In contrast to all previous approaches, we use a hydraulic system to move the needle up and downward. Given that water is very well suited to conduct pressure pulses it is possible to place the tactile stimulator device holding the needle close to the subject and the hydraulic driving system outside a critical area. Using a phantom, we showed that our stimulator is capable of delivering a stimulus precise on the submillisecond time scale. In addition, we test our stimulator on a healthy adult and compare the results against the electric stimulation. We can show the feasibility of measuring the electric responses of the peripheral nerve and while using MEG also the response of the primary somatosensory cortex. The tactile stimulation showed a more spatial focuses activation of the primary somatosensory cortex when compared against the electric stimulation. The proposed high-precision tactile stimulator will make it possible to analyze the somatosensory system noninvasively in children in the future.


Figure 1: Stimulator device

TactileStimulatorDevice StimlatorNeedle

Figure 2: Brain activity after tactilestimulation by the hydraulic driven stimulator. (Time after stimulation given in ms).

Figure 3: Brain activity after comon electric stimulation of the median nerve (Time after stimulation given in ms).