Textile electrodes are becoming an attractive means in the facilitation of surface electrical stimulation. However, the stimulation comfort of textile electrodes and the mechanism behind stimulation discomfort is still unknown. In this study, a textile stimulation electrode was developed using conductive fabrics and then its impedance spectroscopy, stimulation thresholds, and stimulation comfort were quantitatively assessed and compared with those of a wet textile electrode and a hydrogel electrode on healthy subjects. The equivalent circuit models and the finite element models of different types of electrode were built based on the measured impedance data of the electrodes to reveal the possible mechanism of electrical stimulation pain. Our results showed that the wet textile electrode could achieve similar stimulation performance as the hydrogel electrode in motor threshold and stimulation comfort. However, the dry textile electrode was found to have very low pain threshold and induced obvious cutaneous painful sensations during stimulation, in comparison to the wet and hydrogel electrodes. Indeed, the finite element modeling results showed that the activation function along the z direction at the depth of dermis epidermis junction of the dry textile electrode was significantly larger than that of the wet and hydrogel electrodes, thus resulting in stronger activation of pain sensing fibers. Future work will be done to make textile electrodes have similar stimulation performance and comfort as hydrogel electrodes.
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