A Deep CNN Framework for Neural Drive Estimation From HD-EMG Across Contraction Intensities and Joint Angles

Yue Wen, Sangjoon J. Kim, Simon Avrillon, Jackson T. Levine, Francois Hug, Jose L. Pons*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Previous studies have demonstrated promising results in estimating the neural drive to muscles, the net output of all motoneurons that innervate the muscle, using high-density electromyography (HD-EMG) for the purpose of interfacing with assistive technologies. Despite the high estimation accuracy, current methods based on neural networks need to be trained with specific motor unit action potential (MUAP) shapes updated for each condition (i.e., varying muscle contraction intensities or joint angles). This preliminary step dramatically limits the potential generalization of these algorithms across tasks. We propose a novel approach to estimate the neural drive using a deep convolutional neural network (CNN), which can identify the cumulative spike train (CST) through general features of MUAPs from a pool of motor units. Methods: We recorded HD-EMG signals from the gastrocnemius medialis muscle under three isometric contraction scenarios: 1) trapezoidal contraction tasks with different intensities, 2) contraction tasks with a trapezoidal or sinusoidal torque target, and 3) trapezoidal contraction tasks at different ankle angles. We applied a convolutive blind source separation (BSS) method to decompose HD-EMG signals to CST and segmented both signals into windows to train and validate the deep CNN. Then, we optimized the structure of the deep CNN and validated its generalizability across contraction tasks within each scenario. Results: With the optimal configuration for the HD-EMG data window (overlap of 20 data points and window length of 40 data points), the deep CNN estimated the CST close to that from BSS, with a correlation coefficient higher than 0.96 and normalized root-mean-square-error lower than 7% with respect to the BSS (golden standard) within each scenario. Conclusion: The proposed deep CNN framework can utilize data from different contraction tasks (e.g., different intensities), learn general features of MUAP variants, and estimate the neural drive for other contraction tasks. Significance: With the proposed deep CNN, we could potentially build a neural-drive-based human-machine interface that is generalizable to different contraction tasks without retraining.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2950-2959
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering
StatePublished - 2022


  • High-density electromyography (HD-EMG)
  • convolutional neural network (CNN)
  • machine learning
  • neural drive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Internal Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering


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