Decomposition of the electromyographic (EMG) signal into constituent action potentials and the identification of individual firing instances of each motor unit in the presence of ambient noise are inherently probabilistic processes, whether performed manually or with automated algorithms. Consequently, they are subject to errors. We set out to classify and reduce these errors by analyzing 1,061 motor-unit action-potential trains (MUAPTs), obtained by decomposing surface EMG (sEMG) signals recorded during human voluntary contractions. Decomposition errors were classified into two general categories: location errors representing variability in the temporal localization of each motor-unit firing instance and identification errors consisting of falsely detected or missed firing instances. To mitigate these errors, we developed an error-reduction algorithm that combines multiple decomposition estimates to determine a more probable estimate of motor-unit firing instances with fewer errors. The performance of the algorithm is governed by a trade-off between the yield of MUAPTs obtained above a given accuracy level and the time required to perform the decomposition. When applied to a set of sEMG signals synthesized from real MUAPTs, the identification error was reduced by an average of 1.78%, improving the accuracy to 97.0%, and the location error was reduced by an average of 1.66 ms. The error-reduction algorithm in this study is not limited to any specific decomposition strategy. Rather, we propose it be used for other decomposition methods, especially when analyzing precise motor-unit firing instances, as occurs when measuring synchronization.
Keywords: accuracy; decomposition; error reduction; motor-unit firing instances; surface EMG signal.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.