Application of autocorrelation and cross-correlation analyses in human movement and rehabilitation research

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009 Apr;39(4):287-95. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2009.2969.


Study design: Technical note.

Objectives: To provide background theory and information and to describe relevant applications of autocorrelation and cross-correlation methodology as they apply to the field of motor control in human movement and rehabilitation research.

Background: Commonly used methodologies for pattern and event recognition, determination of muscle activation timing for investigation of movement coordination, and motor control are generally difficult to implement, particularly with large datasets. A brief description of the underlying mathematical theory of correlation analyses is given, followed by 4 different examples of how this methodology is useful for research in the movement sciences.

Methods: Examples demonstrating the utility of correlation analyses are presented from several different studies conducted at the University of Waterloo.

Results: Autocorrelation was used to demonstrate the presence of 60-Hz noise in an electromyography signal that was not visible in the raw data. A "top-down" paraspinal muscle activation pattern was demonstrated for healthy adults during gait, with the use of cross-correlation. Cross-correlation was also used to quantify coactivation of bilateral gluteus medius muscles during standing in individuals who developed low-back pain. Gender differences in gluteus medius control of mediolateral center of pressure were seen with the use of cross-correlation.

Conclusion: Autocorrelation and crosscorrelation have been shown to be an effective tool for several different applications in the movement sciences. Examples of the method's utility include noise detection within a signal, determination of relative muscle activation onsets for postural control, objective quantification of muscle coactivation, and relating muscle activations with mechanical events.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Electromyography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology
  • Movement Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology