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Understanding the Electric Field in Electrical Stimulation for biomedical application

Project Description

"Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a treatment that applies small electrical charges to a muscle that has become paralysed or weakened, due to damage in your brain or spinal cord. The electrical charge stimulates the muscle to make its usual movement. FES is a technique can help with swallowing, hand and arm function, and even breathing problems for pulmonary disease patients and for stroke patients. It has a number of potential future therapies uses to retrain voluntary motor functions such as grasping, reaching and walking.

FES can be applied in a number of ways: transcutaneous, using electrodes which are placed on the skin; percutaneous, with electrodes inserted; through the skin to make direct contact with the motor nerves; or sub-cutaneous, where the stimulator is implanted and electrodes are attached either to the motor nerves directly, or to the nerve roots at the point where they emerge from the base of the spine. This method stimulates mainly the nerve fibres innervating of the muscle.
Current amplitude and duration of the pulsewidth describe the intensity (charge) which determines if a specific neuron is recruited. With low intensity pulses large low-threshold neurons and neurons close to the electrodes will be recruited at first. Smaller neurons with higher threshold and neurons located further away from the electrodes will be recruited with increasing charge per pulse. An electrical field is generated between the electrodes however very little is known of how the electric field propagate in term of magnitude and direction.

This PhD study will aim to answer this question by developing a model from the Maxwell equations and finite element methods of the electric field through the material (Skin and Muscle). A characterisation is needed to understand the level of penetration with respect to the electrodes sizes and polarity separation. An application will be to determine what configuration of transcutaneous stimulation electrodes gives a focal electrical field similar to the one obtained with epidural electrode stimulation.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project.

Eligibility requirements:
Bachelors or Masters Degree (at least 2.1 or equivalent) with Mathematics, Numerical Methods and Electromagnetism as major subjects. Experience in modelling and programming in Matlab/Simulink techniques is highly desirable

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