Spatio-temporal processing of surface electromyographic signals : information on neuromuscular function and control

Abstract: During muscle contraction, electrical signals are generated by the muscle cells. The analysis of those signals is called electromyography (EMG). The EMG signal is mainly determined by physiological factors including so called central factors (central nervous system origin) and peripheral factors (muscle tissue origin). In addition, during the acquisition of EMG signals, technical factors are introduced (measurement equipment origin). The aim of this dissertation was to develop and evaluate methods to estimate physiological properties of the muscles using multichannel surface EMG (MCsEMG) signals. In order to obtain accurate physiological estimates, a method for automatic signal quality estimation was developed. The method’s performance was evaluated using visually classified signals, and the results demonstrated high classification accuracy. A method for estimation of the muscle fibre conduction velocity (MFCV) and the muscle fibre orientation (MFO) was developed. The method was evaluated with synthetic signals and demonstrated high estimation precision at low contraction levels. In order to discriminate between the estimates of MFCV and MFO belonging to single or populations of motor units (MUs), density regions of so called spatial distributions were examined. This method was applied in a study of the trapezius muscle and demonstrated spatial separation of MFCV (as well as MFO) even at high contraction levels. In addition, a method for quantification of MU synchronisation was developed. The performance on synthetic sEMG signals showed high sensitivity on MU synchronisation and robustness to changes in MFCV. The method was applied in a study of the biceps brachii muscle and the relation to force tremor during fatigue. The results showed that MU synchronisation accounted for about 40 % of the force tremor. In conclusion, new sEMG methods were developed to study muscle function and motor control in terms of muscle architecture, muscle fibre characteristics, and processes within the central nervous system.