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A Journal on Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation after Pathological Events

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (SIMFER), European Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (ESPRM), European Union of Medical Specialists - Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine Section (UEMS-PRM), Mediterranean Forum of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (MFPRM), Hellenic Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (EEFIAP)
In association with International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (ISPRM)
Indexed/Abstracted in: CINAHL, Current Contents/Clinical Medicine, EMBASE, PubMed/MEDLINE, Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch), Scopus
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Europa Medicophysica 2001 March;37(1):57-68

language: English

Surface electromyography. A window on the muscle, a glimpse on the central nervous system

Merletti R., Farina D. *, Gazzoni M., Merlo A., Ossola P., Rainoldi A. **

From the Centro di Bioingegneria Laboratorio di Ingegneria del Sistema Neuromuscolare Politecnico di Torino e ASL 1, Regione Piemonte, Torino
*Départment d’Automatique et Informatique Appliquèe Ecole Central de Nantes, Nantes, France
**Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Università di Tor Vergata, Roma and Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi, Roma


This ­work pro­vides an over­view of the ­state of the art in the ­field of sur­face EMG for non inva­sive char­ac­ter­iza­tion of mus­cles and iden­tifi­ca­tion of CNS mus­cle con­trol strat­e­gies: it is in ­part a tuto­ri­al and in ­part a ­review. The mech­a­nisms of EMG sig­nal gen­er­a­tion, prop­a­ga­tion, detec­tion, pro­cess­ing and inter­pre­ta­tion are brief­ly sum­mar­ized. The ­main ­results of the European Concerted Action “Surface EMG for Non Invasive Assessment of Muscles” (SEN­I­AM) are out­lined. Specific atten­tion is ­focused on the key ­issue of prop­er elec­trode loca­tion ­over the mus­cle, ­that is in ­between the inner­va­tion ­zone and the mus­cle ten­don junc­tion. The infor­ma­tion con­tent of mul­ti­chan­nel EMG ­obtained ­with an elec­trode ­array is ­described and the con­cept of ­motor ­unit (MU) sig­na­ture is ­explained. The rec­og­ni­tion and clas­sifi­ca­tion of MU sig­na­tures dur­ing an iso­met­ric con­trac­tion strong­ly sup­ports the pos­sibil­ity of sur­face EMG decom­po­si­tion ­into the con­stit­u­ent (super­fi­cial) ­motor ­unit ­action poten­tial ­trains: exam­ples are giv­en. Applications for mon­i­tor­ing myoe­lec­tric man­i­fes­ta­tions of mus­cle ­fatigue are pre­sent­ed as ­well as appli­ca­tions in ­gait anal­y­sis. Most appli­ca­tions of the tech­nique are ­very “­treacherous” and ­require spe­cif­ic com­pe­tence and knowl­edge. The incor­rect modal­ities of ­data col­lec­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion are out­lined.

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