Gender differences in current received during transcranial electrical stimulation

Michael Russell, Theodore Goodman, Qiang Wang, Bennett Groshong, Bruce G Lyeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Low current transcranial electrical stimulation (tCS) is an effective but somewhat inconsistent tool for augmenting neuromodulation. In this study, we used 3D MRI guided electrical transcranial stimulation modeling to estimate the range of current intensities received at cortical brain tissues. Combined T1, T2, and proton density MRIs from 24 adult subjects (12 male and 12 female) were modeled with virtual electrodes placed at F3, F4, C3, and C4. Two sizes of electrodes 20mm round and 50mm × 45mm were examined at 0.5, 1, and 2mA input currents. The intensity of current received was sampled in a 1-cm sphere placed at the cortex directly under each scalp electrode. There was a 10-fold difference in the amount of current received by individuals. A large gender differencewas observed with female subjects receiving significantly less current at targeted parietal cortex than male subjects when stimulated at identical current levels (P <0.05). Larger electrodes delivered somewhat larger amounts of current than the smaller ones (P <0.01). Electrodes in the frontal regions delivered less current than those in the parietal region (P <0.05). There were large individual differences in current levels that the subjects received. Analysis of the cranial bone showed that the gender difference and the frontal parietal differences are due to differences in cranial bone. Males have more cancelous parietal bone and females more dense parietal bone (P <0.01). These differences should be considered when planning tCS studies and call into question earlier reports of gender differences due to hormonal influences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 104
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 2014


  • DC stimulation, AC stimulation
  • Modeling
  • MRI
  • Transcranial electrical stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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