Inter-electrode spacing of surface EMG sensors: reduction of crosstalk contamination during voluntary contractions

J Biomech. 2012 Feb 2;45(3):555-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.11.010. Epub 2011 Dec 9.


We investigated the influence of inter-electrode spacing on the degree of crosstalk contamination in surface electromyographic (sEMG) signals in the tibialis anterior (target muscle), generated by the triceps surae (crosstalk muscle), using bar and disk electrode arrays. The degree of crosstalk contamination was assessed for voluntary constant-force isometric contractions and for dynamic contractions during walking. Single-differential signals were acquired with inter-electrode spacing ranging from 5 mm to 40 mm. Additionally, double differential signals were acquired at 10 mm spacing using the bar electrode array. Crosstalk contamination at the target muscle was expressed as the ratio of the detected crosstalk signal to that of the target muscle signal. The crosstalk contamination ratio approached a mean of 50% for the 40 mm spacing for triceps surae muscle contractions at 80% MVC and tibialis anterior muscle contractions at 10% MVC. For single differential recordings, the minimum crosstalk contamination was obtained from the 10 mm spacing. The results showed no significant differences between the bar and disk electrode arrays. During walking, the crosstalk contamination on the tibialis anterior muscle reached levels of 23% for a commonly used 22 mm spacing single-differential disk sensor, 17% for a 10 mm spacing single-differential bar sensor, and 8% for a 10 mm double-differential bar sensor. For both studies the effect of electrode spacing on crosstalk contamination was statistically significant. Crosstalk contamination and inter-electrode spacing should therefore be a serious concern in gait studies when the sEMG signal is collected with single differential sensors. The contamination can distort the target muscle signal and mislead the interpretation of its activation timing and force magnitude.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Tibia / physiology