The effects of wide pulse neuromuscular electrical stimulation on elbow flexion torque in individuals with chronic hemiparetic stroke

J. M. Clair-Auger, D. F. Collins, J. P.A. Dewald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective: Neuromuscular electrical stimulation that incorporates wide pulse widths (1. ms) and high frequencies (100. Hz; wide pulse-NMES (WP-NMES)) augments contractions through an increased reflexive recruitment of motoneurons in individuals without neurological impairments and those with spinal cord injury. The current study was designed to investigate whether WP-NMES also augments contractions after stroke. We hypothesized that WP-NMES would generate larger contractions in the paretic arm compared to the non-paretic arm due to increased reflex excitability for paretic muscles after stroke. Methods: The biceps brachii muscles were stimulated bilaterally in 10 individuals with chronic hemiparetic stroke. Four stimulation patterns were delivered to explore the effects of pulse width and frequency on contraction amplitude: 20-100-20. Hz (4. s each phase, 1. ms pulse width); 20-100-20. Hz (4. s each phase, 0.1. ms); 20. Hz for 12. s (1. ms); and 100. Hz for 12. s (1. ms). Elbow flexion torque and electromyography were recorded. Results: Stimulation that incorporated 1. ms pulses evoked more torque in the paretic arm than the non-paretic arm. When 0.1. ms pulses were used there was no difference in torque between arms. For both arms, torque declined significantly during the constant frequency 100. Hz stimulation and did not change during the constant frequency 20. Hz stimulation. Conclusions: The larger contractions generated by WP-NMES are likely due to increased reflexive recruitment of motoneurons, resulting from increased reflex excitability on the paretic side. Significance: NMES that elicits larger contractions may allow for development of more effective stroke rehabilitation paradigms and functional neural prostheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2247-2255
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Biceps brachii
  • Motoneuron excitability
  • Reflex transmission
  • Sensori-motor integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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