Amplitude-related characteristics of motor unit and M-wave potentials during fatigue. A simulation study using literature data on intracellular potential changes found in vitro

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2002 Oct;12(5):339-49. doi: 10.1016/s1050-6411(02)00046-9.


To realize possible reasons for changes in EMG amplitude characteristics with fatigue, we analyzed motor unit potentials (MUPs) and M-waves under simultaneous variations of the intracellular action potential (IAP) amplitude, duration, and shape as well as of the muscle fiber propagation velocity and desynchronization in activation of individual muscle fibers. Analysis was performed through computer simulation of MUPs and M-waves detected at different distances from active fibers in infinite anisotropic volume conductor. Changes in the IAP spike and negative after-potential were taken from in vitro experiments reported in the literature. It was shown that the amplitudes of MUP and M-wave detected simultaneously at different distances could decrease close to the active fibers, be almost unchanged at middle distances, and increase far from the fibers even under IAP amplitude decreasing. This reflected the distance-dependent effects of changes in the IAP profile along the fiber. Electrode position affected sensitivity of MUP and M-wave durations to changes in the IAP duration and propagation velocity. Thus, the signal area and RMS depended on electrode position and could change with fatigue in a way different from that of signal amplitude. The results can help to avoid misleading interpretation of EMG changes.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Electromyography*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation