Non-invasive approach of motor unit recording during muscle contractions in humans
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Information about the structural and functional characteristics of the motor unit (MU) is highly relevant for the diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders. Electromyography (EMG) is a suitable method for obtaining the information needed. The problem is the separation of the activity of one MU from others which are simultaneously active. Such investigations of single MU activity have commonly used invasive methods, e.g. employing a needle or a wire. Conventional surface-EMG methods have limited resolution and detect, at high contraction levels, multiple MU superimposed one on the other. The separation of the activity of a single MU can be achieved in a non-invasive way when highly specialised acquisition techniques are used. One approach, called high spatial resolution EMG (HSR-EMG), is based on the use of multi-electrode arrays in combination with a two-dimensional Laplace filter. The HSR-EMG permits the completely non-invasive detection of single MU activity even during maximal voluntary contractions. First applications have shown that the method provides a deeper insight into the functional and structural characteristics of the MU. In this paper the application of HSR-EMG to the diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders will be presented, and the latest results will be given of its application in the evaluation of treatment of patients with plexus lesion.
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