Head phantoms for bioelectromagnetic applications: a material study

Assessments of source reconstruction procedures in electroencephalography and computations of transcranial electrical stimulation profiles require verification and validation with the help of ground truth configurations as implemented by physical head phantoms. For these phantoms, synthetic materials are needed, which are mechanically and electrochemically stable and possess conductivity values similar to the modeled human head tissues. Three-compartment head models comprise a scalp layer with a conductivity range of 0.137 S/m to 2.1 S/m, a skull layer with conductivity values between 0.066 S/m and 0.00275 S/m, and an intracranial volume with an often-used average conductivity value of 0.33 S/m. To establish a realistically shaped physical head phantom with a well-defined volume conduction configuration, we here characterize the electrical conductivity of synthetic materials for modeling head compartments. We analyzed agarose hydrogel, gypsum, and sodium chloride (NaCl) solution as surrogate materials for scalp, skull, and intracranial volume. We measured the impedance of all materials when immersed in NaCl solution using a four-electrode setup. The measured impedance values were used to calculate the electrical conductivity values of each material. Further, the conductivities in the longitudinal and transverse directions of reed sticks immersed in NaCl solution were measured to test their suitability for mimicking the anisotropic conductivity of white matter tracts.


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