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Cochlear Nerve Stimulation with a 3-Dimensional Penetrating Electrode Array

Hillman, Todd*; Badi, Arun N.; Normann, Richard A.; Kertesz, Tom*; Shelton, Clough*

COCHLEAR IMPLANTS
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Hypothesis An array of penetrating microelectrodes can be implanted into the cochlear nerve to produce stable evoked responses with important electrophysiologic advantages over conventional electrode technology.

Background A totally implantable cochlear implant system would benefit from new electrode technology that lowers the current required for stimulation. Modern cochlear implant arrays placed in the scala tympani have an appreciable distance between the electrodes and the cochlear nerve, the site of intended stimulation. This distance can create the problem of cross-talk, limiting the number of electrodes that can represent discrete frequencies over a given length as well as significantly increasing stimulation thresholds and producing nonfocal stimulation of the fibers in the nerve. An electrode in direct contact with neurons in the cochlear nerve could reduce these problems. The Utah Electrode Array is a novel, three-dimensional, penetrating electrode array intended for direct neural stimulation with the potential ability to implant up to 200 electrodes directly into the cochlear nerve.

Methods Arrays containing 6 to 19 electrodes were implanted acutely into six separate cat cochlear nerves for analysis. Thresholds and input/output functions were measured with electrically induced auditory brainstem responses.

Results Current injections in 38 of 70 implanted electrodes produced stable brainstem responses after implantation. The median threshold was 15 μA.

Conclusions An array of penetrating electrodes can be implanted into the cochlear nerve and used to evoke brainstem responses. The responses are of low threshold and are stable. Arrays of electrodes, inserted into auditory nerve, could form the neural interfaces for the next generation of auditory prostheses.

Departments of *Otolaryngology and †Bioengineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.

This project was supported by the Utah State Center of Excellence Program.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Clough Shelton, Division of Otolaryngology, University of Utah, 50 N. Medical Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84132. Email: clough.shelton@hsc.uta.edu

© 2003 Otology & Neurotology, Inc.