Differences in age-related fiber atrophy between vastii muscles of active subjects: a multichannel surface EMG study

Physiol Meas. 2015 Jul;36(7):1591-600. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/36/7/1591. Epub 2015 Jun 9.


The aim of the study was to non-invasively determine if vastus lateralis (VL) and vastus medialis obliquus (VM) muscles are equally affected by age-related fiber atrophy. Multichannel surface electromyography was used since it allows to estimate muscle fiber conduction velocity (CV), which has been demonstrated to be related to the size of recruited muscle fibers. Twelve active elderly men (age 69 ± 4 years) and 12 active young men (age 23 ± 2 years) performed isometric knee extension at 30%, 50%, and 70% of maximal voluntary contraction. Electromyographic signals were recorded from VL and VM muscles of the dominant limb using arrays with eight electrodes and CVs were estimated for each contraction. CV estimates showed a different behavior in the two muscles: in VL at 50% and 70% of maximum voluntary contraction they were greater in young than in elderly; whereas such a difference was not observed in VM. This finding suggest that in active elderly VM seems to be less affected by the age-related fibers atrophy than VL. Hence, the common choice of studying VL as a muscle representative of the whole quadriceps could generate misleading findings. Indeed, it seemed that the sarcopenic ageing effects might be heterogeneous within quadriceps muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Knee / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult