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J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2009 Apr;19(2):199-207. Epub 2007 Oct 29.

Patterns of motor recruitment can be determined using surface EMG.

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School of Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6.


Previous studies have reported how different populations of motor units (MUs) can be recruited during dynamic and locomotor tasks. It was hypothesised that the higher-threshold units would contribute higher-frequency components to the sEMG spectra due to their faster conduction velocities, and thus recruitment patterns that increase the proportion of high-threshold units active would lead to higher-frequency elements in the sEMG spectra. This idea was tested by using a model of varying recruitment coupled to a three-layer volume conductor model to generate a series of sEMG signals. The recruitment varied from (A) orderly recruitment where the lowest-threshold MUs were initially activated and higher-threshold MUs were sequentially recruited as the contraction progressed, (B) a recurrent inhibition model that started with orderly recruitment, but as the higher-threshold units were activated they inhibited the lower-threshold MUs (C) nine models with intermediate properties that were graded between these two extremes. The sEMG was processed using wavelet analysis and the spectral properties quantified by their mean frequency, and an angle theta that was determined from the principal components of the spectra. Recruitment strategies that resulted in a greater proportion of faster MUs being active had a significantly lower theta and higher mean frequency.

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