Power spectral analysis of surface electromyography (EMG) at matched contraction levels of the first dorsal interosseous muscle in stroke survivors

Xiaoyan Li*, Henry Shin, Ping Zhou, Xun Niu, Jie Liu, William Zev Rymer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of this study was to help assess complex neural and muscular changes induced by stroke using power spectral analysis of surface electromyogram (EMG) signals. Methods: Fourteen stroke subjects participated in the study. They were instructed to perform isometric voluntary contractions by abducting the index finger. Surface EMG signals were collected from the paretic and contralateral first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscles with forces ranging from 30% to 70% maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) of the paretic muscle. Power spectral analysis was performed to characterize features of the surface EMG in paretic and contralateral muscles at matched forces. A Linear Mixed Model was applied to identify the spectral changes in the hemiparetic muscle and to examine the relation between spectral parameters and contraction levels. Regression analysis was performed to examine the correlations between spectral characteristics and clinical features. Results: Differences in power spectrum distribution patterns were observed in paretic muscles when compared with their contralateral pairs. Nine subjects showed increased mean power frequency (MPF) in the contralateral side (>15. Hz). No evident spectrum difference was observed in 3 subjects. Only 2 subjects had higher MPF in the paretic muscle than the contralateral muscle. Pooling all subjects' data, there was a significant reduction of MPF in the paretic muscle compared with the contralateral muscle (paretic: 168.7. ±. 7.6. Hz, contralateral: 186.1. ±. 8.7. Hz, mean. ±. standard error, F=36.56, p<. 0.001). Examination of force factor on the surface EMG power spectrum did not confirm a significant correlation between the MPF and contraction force in either hand (F=0.7, p>. 0.5). There was no correlation between spectrum difference and Fugl-Meyer or Chedoke scores, or ratio of paretic and contralateral MVC (p>. 0.2). Conclusions: There appears to be complex muscular and neural processes at work post stroke that may impact the surface EMG power spectrum. The majority of the tested stroke subjects had lower MPF in the paretic muscle than in the contralateral muscle at matched isometric contraction force. The reduced MPF of paretic muscles can be attributed to different factors such as increased motor unit synchronization, impairments in motor unit control properties, loss of large motor units, and atrophy of muscle fibers. Significance: Surface EMG power spectral analysis can serve as a useful tool to indicate complex neural and muscular changes after stroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)988-994
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


  • First dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle
  • Spectral analysis
  • Stroke
  • Surface electromyography (EMG)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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