The selection of a suitable nerve electrode for neuroprosthetic applications implies a trade-off between invasiveness and selectivity, wherein the ultimate goal is achieving the highest selectivity for a high number of nerve fascicles by the least invasiveness and potential damage to the nerve. The transverse intrafascicular multichannel electrode (TIME) is intended to be transversally inserted into the peripheral nerve and to be useful to selectively activate subsets of axons in different fascicles within the same nerve. We present a comparative study of TIME, LIFE and multipolar cuff electrodes for the selective stimulation of small nerves. The electrodes were implanted on the rat sciatic nerve, and the activation of gastrocnemius, plantar and tibialis anterior muscles was recorded by EMG signals. Thus, the study allowed us to ascertain the selectivity of stimulation at the interfascicular and also at the intrafascicular level. The results of this study indicate that (1) intrafascicular electrodes (LIFE and TIME) provide excitation circumscribed to the implanted fascicle, whereas extraneural electrodes (cuffs) predominantly excite nerve fascicles located superficially; (2) the minimum threshold for muscle activation with TIME and LIFE was significantly lower than with cuff electrodes; (3) TIME allowed us to selectively activate the three tested muscles when stimulating through different active sites of one device, both at inter- and intrafascicular levels, whereas selective activation using multipolar cuff (with a longitudinal tripolar stimulation configuration) was only possible for two muscles, at the interfascicular level, and LIFE did not activate selectively more than one muscle in the implanted nerve fascicle. © 2011 IOP Publishing Ltd.