Transcranial electric stimulation (TES) is an emerging technique, developed to non-invasively modulate brain function. However, the spatiotemporal distribution of the intracranial electric fields induced by TES remains poorly understood. In particular, it is unclear how much current actually reaches the brain, and how it distributes across the brain. Lack of this basic information precludes a firm mechanistic understanding of TES effects. In this study we directly measure the spatial and temporal characteristics of the electric field generated by TES using stereotactic EEG (s-EEG) electrode arrays implanted in cebus monkeys and surgical epilepsy patients. We found a small frequency dependent decrease (10%) in magnitudes of TES induced potentials and negligible phase shifts over space. Electric field strengths were strongest in superficial brain regions with maximum values of about 0.5 mV/mm. Our results provide crucial information of the underlying biophysics in TES applications in humans and the optimization and design of TES stimulation protocols. In addition, our findings have broad implications concerning electric field propagation in non-invasive recording techniques such as EEG/MEG.
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© The Author(s) 2016.