Decomposition of surface EMG signals

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Sep;96(3):1646-57. doi: 10.1152/jn.00009.2006.


This report describes an early version of a technique for decomposing surface electromyographic (sEMG) signals into the constituent motor unit (MU) action potential trains. A surface sensor array is used to collect four channels of differentially amplified EMG signals. The decomposition is achieved by a set of algorithms that uses a specially developed knowledge-based Artificial Intelligence framework. In the automatic mode the accuracy ranges from 75 to 91%. An Interactive Editor is used to increase the accuracy to > 97% in signal epochs of about 30-s duration. The accuracy was verified by comparing the firings of action potentials from the EMG signals detected simultaneously by the surface sensor array and by a needle sensor. We have decomposed up to six MU action potential trains from the sEMG signal detected from the orbicularis oculi, platysma, and tibialis anterior muscles. However, the yield is generally low, with typically < or = 5 MUs per contraction. Both the accuracy and the yield should increase as the algorithms are developed further. With this technique it is possible to investigate the behavior of MUs in muscles that are not easily studied by needle sensors. We found that the inverse relationship between the recruitment threshold and the firing rate previously reported for muscles innervated by spinal nerves is also present in the orbicularis oculi and the platysma, which are innervated by cranial nerves. However, these two muscles were found to have greater and more widespread values of firing rates than those of large limb muscles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Electromyography / methods*
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Skin / innervation
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Spinal Nerves / physiology