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Modelling the electrical activity of skeletal muscle tissue using a multi-domain approach

Abstract

Electromyography (EMG) can be used to study the behaviour of the motor neurons and thus provides insights into the physiology of the central nervous system. However, due to the high complexity of neuromuscular control, EMG signals are challenging to interpret. While the exact knowledge of the excitation patterns of a specific muscle within an in vivo experimental setting remains elusive, simulations allow to systematically investigate EMG signals in a controlled environment. Within this context, simulations can provide virtual EMG data, which, for example, can be used to validate and optimise signal analysis methods that aim to estimate the relationship between EMG signals and the output of motor neuron pools. However, since existing methods, which are employed to compute EMG signals, exhibit deficiencies with respect to the physical model itself as well as with respect to numerical aspects, we propose a novel homogenised continuum model that closely resolves the electro-physiological behaviour of skeletal muscle tissue. The proposed model is based on an extension of the well-established bidomain model and includes a biophysically detailed description of the electrical activity within the tissue, which is due to the depolarisation of the muscle fibre membranes. In contrast to all other published EMG models, which assume that the electrical potential field for each muscle fibre can be calculated independently, the proposed model assumes that the electrical potential in the muscle fibres is coupled to the electrical potential in the extracellular space. We show that the newly proposed model is able to simulate realistic EMG signals and demonstrate the potential to employ the predicted virtual EMG signal in order to evaluate the goodness of automated decomposition algorithms.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung as part of the DiHu project of the High Performance Computing II program and by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy – EXC 2075 – 390740016.

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Correspondence to Thomas Klotz.

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Klotz, T., Gizzi, L., Yavuz, U.Ş. et al. Modelling the electrical activity of skeletal muscle tissue using a multi-domain approach. Biomech Model Mechanobiol 19, 335–349 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10237-019-01214-5

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Keywords

  • EMG
  • Biophysical
  • Bidomain
  • Multi-scale
  • Decomposition algorithms
  • Motor units