Exploration of a machine learning approach for diagnosing sarcopenia among Chinese community-dwelling older adults using sEMG-based data

J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2024 May 9;21(1):69. doi: 10.1186/s12984-024-01369-y.


Background: In the practical application of sarcopenia screening, there is a need for faster, time-saving, and community-friendly detection methods. The primary purpose of this study was to perform sarcopenia screening in community-dwelling older adults and investigate whether surface electromyogram (sEMG) from hand grip could potentially be used to detect sarcopenia using machine learning (ML) methods with reasonable features extracted from sEMG signals. The secondary aim was to provide the interpretability of the obtained ML models using a novel feature importance estimation method.

Methods: A total of 158 community-dwelling older residents (≥ 60 years old) were recruited. After screening through the diagnostic criteria of the Asian Working Group for Sarcopenia in 2019 (AWGS 2019) and data quality check, participants were assigned to the healthy group (n = 45) and the sarcopenic group (n = 48). sEMG signals from six forearm muscles were recorded during the hand grip task at 20% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and 50% MVC. After filtering recorded signals, nine representative features were extracted, including six time-domain features plus three time-frequency domain features. Then, a voting classifier ensembled by a support vector machine (SVM), a random forest (RF), and a gradient boosting machine (GBM) was implemented to classify healthy versus sarcopenic participants. Finally, the SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP) method was utilized to investigate feature importance during classification.

Results: Seven out of the nine features exhibited statistically significant differences between healthy and sarcopenic participants in both 20% and 50% MVC tests. Using these features, the voting classifier achieved 80% sensitivity and 73% accuracy through a five-fold cross-validation. Such performance was better than each of the SVM, RF, and GBM models alone. Lastly, SHAP results revealed that the wavelength (WL) and the kurtosis of continuous wavelet transform coefficients (CWT_kurtosis) had the highest feature impact scores.

Conclusion: This study proposed a method for community-based sarcopenia screening using sEMG signals of forearm muscles. Using a voting classifier with nine representative features, the accuracy exceeds 70% and the sensitivity exceeds 75%, indicating moderate classification performance. Interpretable results obtained from the SHAP model suggest that motor unit (MU) activation mode may be a key factor affecting sarcopenia.

Keywords: EMG; Early diagnosis; Machine learning; SHAP; Sarcopenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • China
  • East Asian People
  • Electromyography* / methods
  • Female
  • Hand Strength* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Independent Living*
  • Machine Learning*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Sarcopenia* / diagnosis
  • Sarcopenia* / physiopathology
  • Support Vector Machine