Boundary element fast multipole method for modeling electrical brain stimulation with voltage and current electrodes

Sergey N. Makarov*, Laleh Golestanirad, William A. Wartman, Bach Thanh Nguyen, Gregory M. Noetscher, Jyrki P. Ahveninen, Kyoko Fujimoto, Konstantin Weise, Aapo R. Nummenmaa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective. To formulate, validate, and apply an alternative to the finite element method (FEM) high-resolution modeling technique for electrical brain stimulation - the boundary element fast multipole method (BEM-FMM). To include practical electrode models for both surface and embedded electrodes. Approach. Integral equations of the boundary element method in terms of surface charge density are combined with a general-purpose fast multipole method and are expanded for voltage, shunt, current, and floating electrodes. The solution of coupled and properly weighted/preconditioned integral equations is accompanied by enforcing global conservation laws: charge conservation law and Kirchhoff's current law. Main results. A sub-percent accuracy is reported as compared to the analytical solutions and simple validation geometries. Comparison to FEM considering realistic head models resulted in relative differences of the electric field magnitude in the range of 3%-6% or less. Quantities that contain higher order spatial derivatives, such as the activating function, are determined with a higher accuracy and a faster speed as compared to the FEM. The method can be easily combined with existing head modeling pipelines such as headreco or mri2mesh. Significance. The BEM-FMM does not rely on a volumetric mesh and is therefore particularly suitable for modeling some mesoscale problems with submillimeter (and possibly finer) resolution with high accuracy at moderate computational cost. Utilizing Helmholtz reciprocity principle makes it possible to expand the method to a solution of EEG forward problems with a very large number of cortical dipoles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0460D4
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • boundary element method
  • deep brain stimulation
  • electroencephalography
  • fast multipole method
  • intracortical microstimulation
  • numerical modeling
  • transcranial electrical stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biomedical Engineering


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